Can we grow soy beans in Flanders’ fields?

Flemish scientists are to test whether soy beans can be cultivated in a thousand gardens belonging to everyday people.  They want to establish in which soils soy seeds grow and learn whether it is feasible to grow the crop in our climes.

The scientists hope to convince farmers to take this crop on board and grow it under sustainable conditions. Ghent and Leuven universities are involved in the research together with several other Flemish research centres.  Tests are already underway, but the researchers are looking for an additional thousand households prepared to cultivate the crop in their garden.  People should be prepared to set aside one square metre of their garden for the test.

At present it’s unclear whether soy beans can grow in Flemish soil.  Bacteria in the soil play an important role in this respect.  Soy beans can be used as animal fodder but also as an alternative for meat consumption by you and me.  Raw materials for the soy products we already eat are sourced abroad.

Sofie Goormachtig of Ghent University: “In one gram of soil you will encounter around a million bacteria.  It’s especially rhizobium bacteria that can live cheek by jowl with soy beans”.

“Gardeners will be asked to plant in May. Every so many weeks or so they will be required to provide an update.  Whether or not the crop is a success depends on the presence of bacteria in the soil.  The bacteria ensure the soy bean plant grows and provides high quality seeds.  We’re predicting success in twenty percent of gardens where roots will be formed.”

At present Flanders imports 800,000 tons of soy a year, chiefly from Brazil and Argentina, where the rainforest is being cut to cultivate soy beans.

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