In doing research with soybeans, we need to periodically re-culture the seeds. We are using a special cultivar that is not naturally resistant to fungal attack. This serves as a positive control in testing. Not too many people would want to grow this for normal crop production, therefore it is more difficult to obtain. Laboratory culture maintenance for plants requires small scale farming (gardening). Ideally, the seeds need to go in the soil early in the spring to allow for adequate bean pod and seed development. However, due to vacation plans, we got off to a late start. On a cold, windy day in June, we planted our first on-campus outdoor garden of soybeans.
— Special Thank You to Kathy Schupp for letting us use the Schrank Hall South Culinary Gardens!
University of Akron’s Shrank Hall South Culinary Gardens is a group of partially enclosed, raised, concrete planters that have surprisingly good soil and drainage. We were permitted to use a section of the deepest, largest bed. This garden section needed a bit of weeding and tilling. It looked like a tree had died here a few years back. The old and rotten roots needed removed. We also found buried wires and pipes for lighting and watering (both abandoned long ago). We settled on a full-sun area between the electrical wires and the plumbing pipes.
Soybeans are planted at different spacings depending on the location, goals, and plant type (read more at www.agry.purdue.edu). Each of us has different experience with planting, so we ended up with something of a hybrid spacing. The beans were planted with a small amount of fertilizer. There was no evidence that this garden had been used for legumes and was unlikely to have enough nitrogen fixing bacteria to support soybean growth. We were worried about fungal attack, as this variety is not resistant. Fortunately, the soil seems to have very good drainage. After planing the seeds were covered with about an inch of soil.
Our seedlings emerged about 8 days later. With constant waterings, more fertilizer, and one application of pesticide to chase away the beetles, the plants were a success. Soybeans key their growth on both temperature and sunlight duration (EAP’s Explanation). The bean type is matched to the geographical location to ensure the correct timing for the pod production. Pairing the correct planting time with the maturity group will optimize the yield (Monsanto has a presentation with yield as a function of planting date and maturity group). Being in Ohio, we fall at about group 3. Waiting longer can help prevent weeds and fungal attack, but may decrease yields if we wait too long and the days start getting shorter before the plants have grown enough.
Harvest! In late September, the plants started to die back and drop their leaves. The shorter sunshine duration and cold nights were indicating the growing season was over. Waiting a few weeks, the plants turned brown and the bean pods started to dry. Ideally, the pods will dry in the field. However with a wet fall season with a week long rain storm in the forecast, the plants were collected early and allowed to dry indoors. The bean pods were cut from the dried stems and finally shelled for storage. We finished with about 1 lb of soybeans from 80 plants.