Kent grower to try soya as alternative legume break crop

Kent grower Mark Bowsher-Gibbs will give soya beans a go for the first time this season, capitalising on the South-East’s suitably warm climate and the crop’s buoyant market price of about £375/t.

Mr Bowsher-Gibbs, who is farm and estate manager at GH Dean near Sittingbourne, Kent, plans to grow 18ha of the soya bean variety Silverka in an investigation to see if it can hold it’s own as an alternative legume break crop to peas.

Roughly 20% of the farm’s usual pea area will instead be drilled with soya in early May. As soil temperature and drill depth are critical to getting soya off to the best start, the plan is to establish the crop with a Sumo drill after discs once soils have warmed up in late April.

See also: Soya beans offer strong returns and prime blackgrass control

Previously the land was in a second wheat, which was then sown to feed oats as an over-winter catch crop last September. Sheep grazed the oats throughout December and January before it was sprayed off with glyphosate in February.

Kent Monitor Farmer Mark Bowsher-Gibbs

Kent Monitor Farmer Mark Bowsher-Gibbs

The Kent AHDB Monitor Farmer, Mr Bowsher-Gibbs, revealed his trial plans at the latest group meeting. The crop will be grown on a seed contract for Soya UK, stored until spring 2018 and sold for European supply.

Growing soya beans isn’t suitable for everyone, with Soya UK not recommending that the crop is grown further north than the Vale of York.

That’s because one of the biggest potential problems with the crop is its late harvest date towards the end of September, plus conditions further north are typically too cool for soya growth.

“Soya needs to be harvested relatively late in the season, but I’m hoping that could be less of a problem for us as we have a warmer micro-climate and lighter soils,” explains Mr Bowsher-Gibbs.

He expects to achieve a gross margin of £662/ha if he hits his target yield of 2.5t/ha.

Projected costs and income

 Yield (t/ha)
 2.5
 Value (£/t)  375
 Total income (£/ha)  937
 Seed cost (£/ha)
 150
 Fertiliser cost (£/ha)  60
 Spray costs (£/ha)  65
 Total cost (£/ha)
 275
 Gross margin (£/ha)
 662

Fact file: soya beans

Advantages

  • A low-input break crop
  • Counts as a legume crop for CAP greening rules
  • £30/t premium for non-genetically modified (GM) beans
  • Drilled from mid-April to early May, giving ample opportunity for stale seed-beds to tackle weeds
  • Rotationally comparable with peas and beans
  • A good nitrogen fixer, offering about 70kg/ha of nitrogen to the following crop
  • Large market for UK-grown soya

Disadvantages

  • Not suitable to grow further north than the Vale of York
  • Prone to suffering pigeon attack
  • Harvesting can be late, stretching from September into October
  • Grows best at altitudes of less than 600m above sea level

For more information on growing soya beans, contact Soya UK.