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How to Grow Soybeans

Soybean pods on a young soybean plant
Soybean pods nearing maturity
Soybean pods nearing maturity

Soybeans are bushy, free-branching, warm-weather annuals. There are more than 10,000 soybean cultivars. Seeds can be smaller than a pea or as large as a kidney bean.

Soybeans grow 12 to 36 inches (30-91cm) tall. Stems and leaves are hairy. The flowers are white with lavender shading. Pods grow 1 to 4 inches (2.5-10cm) long in clusters of three to five. Each fuzzy pod contains 2 to 4 seeds. Seeds range from black to gray, brown, green, yellow, white, and striped.

Soybean Quick Growing Tips

  • Sow soybeans in spring 2 to 3 weeks after the average last frost date when the soil has warmed to at least 60°F (16°C).
  • Soybeans can be planted earlier in warm-winter regions.
  • Soybeans grow best where the daytime temperature averages in the 70°sF (21°C).
  • Soybean yield: grow 4 to 8 soybean plants per household member.

Where to Plant Soybeans

  • Plant soybeans in full sun; soybeans will tolerate partial shade but the yield will be reduced.
  • Soybeans grow best in loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter.
  • Soybeans prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
  • Soybeans are tolerant of poor soil.
 Young soybean plants
Young soybean plants

Soybean Planting Time

  • Sow soybeans in spring 2 to 3 weeks after the average last frost date when the soil has warmed to at least 60°F (16°C).
  • Soybeans grow best where the daytime temperature averages between 60°F and 70°F (16-21°C).
  • Plant soybeans in late winter in warm-winter regions. Soybeans are not frost-tolerant.

Planting and Spacing Soybeans

  • Sow soybean seeds 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) deep, 2 to 4 inches (5-1ocm) apart in rows 24 to 30 inches (61-76cm) apart.
  • Thin successful seedlings from 4 to 6 inches (1015cm) apart; cutaway thinned seedlings with scissors at ground level being careful not to disturb the roots of remaining plants.
  • Do not soak seed before planting and do not overwater immediately after planting; too moist seeds may crack and germinate poorly.

Soybean Companion Plants

  • Grow soybeans with potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, summer savory.
  • Do not plant soybeans with onion or garlic.

Watering and Feeding Soybeans

  • Keep planting beds evenly moist until soybeans have pushed through the soil.
  • Water regularly during flowering and pod formation.
  • Avoid overhead watering which can cause flowers and pods to fall off.
  • Mulch when the soil warms to greater than 60°F (16°C) to conserve soil moisture.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting.
  • Side dress soybeans with aged compost at midseason.
  • Avoid adding nitrogen-rich fertilizers to planting beds. Soybeans, like other legumes, set up a mutual exchange with soil microorganisms called nitrogen-fixing bacteria to produce nitrogen compounds used by the plant.

Soybean Care

  • Avoid handling soybeans when they are wet or covered with heavy dew; this may spread fungus spores.
  • Keep planting beds weed-free; cultivate around soybeans carefully so as not to disturb the plant’s shallow root system.
  • Mulch to conserve soil moisture once the soil has warmed.
  • Rotate soybeans and other legumes to add nitrogen to the soil.

Container Growing Soybeans

  • Soybeans can be grown in containers 8 inches deep, the space required for a useable crop makes soybeans a poor choice for container growing.

Soybean Pests

  • Soybeans are rarely bothered by pests.
  • Keep the garden clean and free of debris so that pests can not harbor or over-winter in the garden.

Soybean Diseases

  • Soybeans are rarely attacked by a disease.
  • Rotate beans so that they do not grow in the same location more than every three years.
Edamame is an immature soybean, pods are boiled or steamed
Edamame is an immature soybean, pods are boiled or steamed

Harvesting Soybeans

  • For green shell beans, harvest soybeans when pods are green, full, and plump, usually 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) long, about half mature.
  • Soybeans for shelling and fresh use are ready for harvest 45 to 65 days after sowing.
  • Dry soybeans require 100 or more days to reach harvest.
  • Soybeans reach maturity at the same time; pull the whole plant and hang it upside down to dry.
  • Shell dry beans once the pods are fully dry.

Note: Soybeans should not be eaten raw; they contain trypsin inhibitor which prevents the digestion of proteins. Blanch green soybeans in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then plunge them into an ice-water bath. Boil sprouted beans for at least 5 minutes before eating.

Storing Soybeans

  • Green shelled or unshelled soybeans will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Shelled soybeans can be frozen, canned, or dried.
  • To make shelling easier, drop pods into boiling water for a minute.
  • Dried, shelled soybeans can be stored in a cool, dry place for 10 to 12 months.

Soybean Varieties

There are more than 10,000 soybean cultivars. Green-seed cultivars are considered the most tender and best flavored. Black-seeded beans are used for drying. Yellow-seed beans are used to make soy milk and flour. Select a cultivar suited to your growing region; check with the nearby agricultural extension for recommendations.

About Soybeans

  • Common name. Soybean
  • Botanical name. Glycine max
  • Origin. East Asia

Comments

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  1. Interserted article about Soy bean, I have adream one day i would be a good farmer of soybeans in my country ( Indonesia)…. But, it’s must more money to make a soybeans planting….. Thank you ….

  2. I have soybeans that have taken longer to grow. The pods formed ages ago but the beans inside have taken a really long time to start filling out. Any suggestions? This is my first attempt to grow them and I want to eat them green not dried.

    • Soybeans can take anywhere from 45 to 100 days to mature, depending on the variety and the weather. First, check the days to maturity for the variety you are growing–then you will have a baseline for normal maturity of beans in the pods; next, the weather must be right: the optimal planting temperature must be 60-85F and the optimal growing temperature for soybeans is 60-70F–temperatures higher or lower will slow maturation. Like all beans, soybean require evenly moist soil–not too wet and not to dry; so keep the soil just moist. Two dependable soybean varieties for home gardens are Fiskeby V which does well in northern gardens and Kanrich which does well in central and southern states (it requires a long season to mature). Hope this helps.

  3. Am very happy that i have learnt how to grow soybean,
    as am speaking av already planted it en you writtings has actually boosted my knowledge on soybeans
    thank you!

  4. thanks, for your nice topic because soybean is an important crop for malnutrition food, on the other hand soybean is a new crop in my country however right now i am going to get my Ms c on soybean, if u have any anther more information please send by my email to me
    it shall be u greet fuel

    • I a small garden plot at a local community garden. I found some dried soybeans in an organic foods shop. I bought some seeds and have put a dozen in a container with cotton wool and water. (Did this before reading all the information above). I have approx 10 sprouting. Am I best to transfer into the garden plot straight away or discard them and plant the seeds direct.

      • Plant them directly. I find they don’t transfer well. That said, you might as well try to plant the sprouted ones since you already have them.

    • You can read about growing cabbage, onions, and tomatoes by going to the Topics Index and scrolling down to the topic you are interested in–such as Cabbage. The key to growing any crop and having success is improving the soil with plenty of compost and planting and harvesting in the right time of year for each crop. Tips for success will be included in each article at the Topic Index.

    • Please read the articles and comments on soy beans–you can find the article by going to the Topics Index and scrolling down to Soybeans.

  5. Hello,
    I am a student currently conducting a science fair project that compares different strains of soybeans. I will be growing these myself and your information has really helped me. However, I’m still very confused about how much water they should be getting. What would be an approximate measurement of the amount of water they need per day? If it helps any, they will be kept in a controlled environment indoors and my containers are 10 inches in diameter and 13 inches deep.
    Thank you!

    • There is not a tried and true formula for watering plants–there are several variables: the growing medium (soil), temperature, exposure to light, day length. All crops require a consistent supply of moisture to plant cells for life and growth (the moisture, in turn, transports nutrients from the soil to the plant). The best watering formula is to keep the soil just moist–not wet and never dry. You can use a moisture meter or your finger. Thrust your index finger into the soil–if it comes away dry, water; if if comes away glistening wet, the soil should be allowed to dry; if it comes way with slight specks of soil, the soil moisture is about right. The the amount of soil in the container you describe will likely require water twice a week.

    • Soybean seed can be planted up to 2 inches deep in sandy soils. The seed must take-in 50 percent of its weight in moisture in order for the germination process to begin and should not fall below 20 percent after the seed swells and the seed coat splits. It’s important to keep the soil moist to a half inch during germination. After the plant is well-rooted, keep the soil evenly moist for best growth and yield. In warm and dry regions, irrigation will be necessary to keep soybeans productive.

  6. I would love to plant soyabeans in rain season as to the weather condition in our country which is zambia,is it the favourable weather adversie .

    • For soybean growing tips, go to the Topic Index and click Soybeans–there you will find an article called Soybean Growing Tips.

    • For soybean growing tips go to the Topic Index and click Soybean–there you will find an article called Soybean Growing Tips.

    • For soybean growing tips go to the Topic Index and click Soybean–you will see an article there called Soybean Growing Tips.

    • There are several commercial inoculants available for soybean growers. Research by crop scientists at Ohio State University suggest inoculants can increase yield. Recently released inoculants contain more beneficial bacteria than in the past. Some of these are include complex sugars.

    • Soybeans grow best where the daytime temperature averages between 60° and 70°F (16-21C). You will have varied degrees of success if the daytime temperature is too high or too low. Track the temperatures during the growing season when you plant soybeans. Please let us know what the temperatures were during your growing season and how your did.

  7. “Note: Soybeans should not be eaten raw; they contain trypsin inhibitor which prevents the digestion of proteins.” This contradict with what is consider healthy out there. They sell soy milk which is raw beans get crushed to produce the milky juice.

    • Components found in raw soybeans can cause short term digestive problems and have the potential to cause long-term health issues. Cooking or fermentation can neutralize some of the negative effects raw soybeans can have. Soybeans contain lectins, glycoproteins that bind to carbohydrates in cells. Lectins may bind to the intestinal walls, damaging the cells and affecting nutrient absorption as well as causing short-term gastrointestinal side effects. Lectins aren’t broken down by enzymes in the intestine and can affect the normal balance of bacteria in the intestine and the immune system in the digestive tract. Lectins in raw soybeans can also affect carbohydrate absorption, reducing uptake by 50 percent, according to a 1991 “Townsend Letters for Doctors” article. Saponins, another component found in raw and cooked soybeans, may also be a toxin. Enzymes used in fermentation, however, can break down saponins. Like lectin, saponins can damage the cells of the intestines if eaten in large amounts. Lectins and saponins in raw soybeans can cause acute nausea, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting. Reports by the American Nutrition Association offer more information on components in raw soybeans.

    • Yes, but you can’t drink the soymilk as is. That’s why they have to heat it up, then remove the foam before storing, so technically any soymilk you drink is cooked. You can look up recipes on google.

    • To start soybean production in your region, you should be in touch with the regional agriculture offices of your government or a nearby university. These agencies should have growing information for your region.

  8. I am a MA student in Plant Pathology
    My thesis is about the fungus Rhizoctonia solani in crops of soybeans–and how soybeans might resist this fungus.
    In this regard, I would like to meet resistance by irradiation with gamma in soybeans.
    Please reply here with any research information you might have on this subject.
    Thank you for your kindness

  9. Hi info is good but what I want to now as I have land by wetland the ground is quite watery can soybeans grown or what else can be grown (Uganda )

    • Vegetables that can grow in wet soil include leafy vegetables such as Tanier spinach (Xanthosoma brasiliense), Butterbur (Petasites japonicas) or Kang Kong (Lpomoea Aquatica). Tanier is a shade-tolerant herbaceous perennial that can be eaten raw, but it is usually boiled to remove the needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals. Butterbur grows in shade or semi-shady conditions; its leaf stalks are eaten as a vegetable. Kang Kong, also called water spinach thrives in sunny or shady locations with lots of moisture.
      Root vegetables for wet soil include skirret (Sium sisarum) which is similar to a carrot. It can be boiled, stewed or roasted. Taro (Colocasia esculenta) can be grown in standing water. Like Tanier spinach, taro leaves should be boiled to remove the needle calcium oxalate crystals, and the roots can also be boiled like potatoes. Outer leaves of the plant are cut into strips, dried and used in soups.
      Productive Vine
      Groundnut (Apios Americana) is a climbing vine that produces a tuber is as versatile as a potato — it can be fried, boiled or sautéed. The plant requires plenty of moisture.

  10. Thank you so much for this article am a farmer in Malawi l have learn a lot .My question is can you grow soya on the same field twice a year?the first planting season using normal rains while the other planting season using irrigation?

    • Yes you can grow multiple crops as long as temperatures do not move to extremes. You will want to add aged compost across your planting beds or fields to renew nutrients in the soil. As long as you can keep the soil well fed and there is no soil-borne disease, you can grow crops continuously.

    • Soybeans don’t require a lot of fertilizer. Beans prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of approximately 6.5. Generally, you can add 5 pounds of 5-10-15 (or about that, 5-10-10 will work) organic fertilizer per 100 feet of row. Add fertilizer at planting time and again after small beans begin to appear on the plants.

  11. thank you very much for.sharing this information about soya beans. am very much interested in growing it but i have no idea but i have learnt something. thanks am from Zambia

  12. Very educative indeed, easy to comprehend even as a first time Soya bean farmer. Am starting with one hectare this year then will see how I l perform. Quite a popular crop here in Zambia.

  13. Based on your article, crop rotation is recommended every 3 seasons. Would you recommend crops that will complement the rotation. I understand pods after post harvest are being used for making animal feeds. Is this a correct info? The asparagus, do you have article for this one? Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • Soybeans are a legume or bean family crop; legumes enrich the soil so any crop can follow legumes; often fruiting crops–heavy feeders follow legumes such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. See the Crop Rotation articles at Harvest to Table:

      Asparagus is a perennial plant; perennials need dedicated growing beds and are not part of a crop rotation.’
      Here is a link to asparagus articles here:

  14. Thanks for good constructive material, im working on starting a soy bean farm in Tanzania. I have a question . What is the plant population on one acre area. Secondly what is the good yield . What is the is the lowest yield and what is the highest yield. I will be grateful if you will get time to answer my questions.
    Thanks

  15. I am looking to plant a small amount of soybeans indoors. Do you think that they will be able to survive in a large container? I have many questions about planting them and have not been able to find many answers. What amount of space is needed for 4-5 plants? I do not want to plant a whole field of soybeans.

    • Soybeans can grow in containers indoors. You will need plenty of light to get a good harvest. Each plant will require a space of about 2 feet by 2 feet when mature. Plant each soybean in a 5-gallon container filled with organic planting mix. Individual containers for each plant will allow you to move the plants to the best spot for light and when the weather is warm you can take them outdoors.

  16. Thanks for this great info, can this crop be intercropped with Chia seeds growing and if yes, in what ratios please.

    • Yes, you can interplant chia and soybeans. Visualize the space each plant will need at maturity and space the plans accordingly. Chia will need about 2 square feet at maturity; soybean will need at least 3 square feet.

  17. I want to plant soy beans as a food plot for deer. Is it ok for deer to eat them raw?
    I plan on planting them in July in Texas so there mature in early October. Temperature sometimes is in mid 90’s. What ae your thoughts.

    • Deer will eat raw soybeans. You are on the cusp of being late to plant soybeans. Temperatures in the 90sF will be problematic. That said if you are going to plant, plant soon. Expect the high temperatures could exact a toll on the seedlings.

      • Very nice article there. I am just trying to farm some soyabeans but worried about how to get some good fertilizer to spray. Please can I get some suggestions on how to get fertilizer to apply. I mean the correct fertilizer name.

    • Crop loss should not be significant if you keep the soil evenly moist and the soil humus-rich. Environmental factors such as drought or excessive rain can cause crop loss.

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