Charles Pensulo | December 20, 2021
It’s a hot Saturday morning with a clear blue sky. Farmer Daniel Chingoli is preparing to plant soybeans with the first rains. Mr. Chingoli is one of the many soybean farmers in Mpingu village, about a 15-minute drive from Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. He says that, because of good prices in recent years, many farmers are growing more soybeans. Diseases are a major drawback in soybean production. To manage soybean pests and diseases next growing season, Mr. Chingoli will use a traditional method he learned from other farmers that involves spraying the crop with water used to soak moringa leaves.
It’s a hot Saturday morning with a clear blue sky, though the heat indicates that rain will soon start falling. Farmer Daniel Chingoli pauses and gazes into the sky before wiping the sweat from his forehead. Mr. Chingoli is a married 55-year-old farmer with 11 children. Right now, he is holding a hoe and busy making ridges. He is preparing to plant soybeans with the first rains.
Mr. Chingoli says: “Soybean is increasingly becoming my alternative food and cash crop. However, the crop faces a major challenge of pests and diseases like soybean rust, which affect yields if the field is not well-managed.”
Mr. Chingoli is one of the many soybean farmers in Mpingu village, about a 15-minute drive from Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi.
He says that farmers in his area also grow maize, sweet potatoes, and groundnuts. But because of good prices in recent years, many farmers are growing more soybeans. Diseases are a major drawback in soybean production. Soybean rust is one of the most significant diseases, with the potential to cause yield losses of greater than 50%.
Mr. Chingoli explains, “Soybean rust disease affects my harvest because it attacks the whole plant and even the pod fails to grow inside. In the end, I don’t harvest much.”
He adds, “Last season I harvested 16 bags of soybean. If the disease did not attack my crop, I could have harvested more.”
Pests also reduce soybean yields. Mr. Chingoli says: “I also face a problem of pests which attack the leaves and the pods. The challenge is that most of the time I cannot afford to buy pesticides—and sometimes they are scarce in the market.”
To manage soybean pests and diseases next growing season, Mr. Chingoli says he will use traditional methods he learned from other farmers. He adds, “There is a plant called moringa which some soybean farmers are using to control diseases and pests in their fields.”
He explains: “What you do is soak the moringa leaves in water for some days and the water becomes a bitter liquid. Farmers should spray the liquid on the soybean plants. The pests will be killed and the field will become free from diseases.”
Esnart Yohane is the research scientist at the Department of Agricultural Research Services in Malawi. She says, “Soybean rust disease happens mostly in fields with humid conditions. It’s an airborne disease that spreads quickly in the field and it is difficult to control.”
Mrs. Yohane says they recommend using pesticides, especially during vegetative growth and flowering and towards the pod formation stage. She says, “It’s advisable that any farmer who is growing soybeans should at least spray pesticides which are found in chemical shops.”
She adds, “As of today, we don’t have any crop variety that is resistant to soybean rust. However, there is the Tikolole variety which is a bit tolerant because it matures earlier than other varieties.”
Mrs. Yohane says that soybean rust is a challenge in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa and that her department is developing resistant varieties.
She adds that leaf miners and other pests that consume leaves can be managed by spraying insecticides sold in stores.
Despite these challenges, Mr. Chingoli says he has benefited immensely from soybean farming. He has paid for his children’s education and built two modest houses.
He adds: “In addition to the money I get from soybean farming, I also make soybean porridge and eat it with my family. I also use soybean plant residues for manure and feed for the cattle. This crop has multiple benefits.”
This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.
Photo: Daniel Chingoli in front of his home. Credit: Charles Pensulo.