Edamame: A Promising Niche Product for Virginia Tobacco, Vegetable, Organic Producers
PETERSBURG, Virginia – An effort at Virginia State University is helping Virginia tobacco, vegetable and organic farmers increase their on-farm income through the production and marketing of a new niche product.
Shawntae Nolen, a graduate student advised by Bo Zhang, an assistant professor at VSU’s Agricultural Research Station, received a $10,731 Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) Graduate Student Grant to study the production of edamame through season extension techniques. Edamame, an edible soybean from Asia, is becoming popular in the United States because of its perceived health benefits and its high value as a vegetable crop.
“Demand for edamame is increasing,” said Nolen. “However, most of the edamame that is available is shipped frozen from Asia. My study looks at the performance characteristics of various edamame varieties to see if we can provide a fresh, local supply up to half a year through such channels as farmers markets.”
Nolen is evaluating four edamame varieties with different maturity groups in high tunnels for a spring and late fall harvest, and sown directly in fields for a summer and early fall harvest. Total marketable yield and seed quality traits including protein, oil and sucrose content of each cultivar are measured after each harvest.
“The goal is to not only determine how well the varieties perform under Virginia growing conditions, but to also extend edamame production to provide a fresh supply during the time of the year when supply is low and demand is high,” said Nolen.
Preliminary studies found that edamame planted in high tunnels in April can be harvested in late June, two and half months earlier than the earliest field-sown edamame plants adapted to Virginia growing conditions. Nolen also found that edamame directly planted in high tunnels in the fall may also produce a crop before Christmas.
“Field-sown edamame planted that late in the season didn’t make it because of the frost in 2012,” said Nolen. “High tunnels may also protect the plants from deer, which we found were a big problem, especially during the time when the soybean plants were young.”
The other challenge Nolen faced was managing the brown marmorated stinkbug.
“Despite those issues, “said Nolen, “we saw success with some of the varieties we planted. Edamame is a hardy plant and is relatively easy to grow, but a farmer’s success will depend on the variety chosen, and more importantly, yield production.”
Nolen said that edamame varieties that can produce two or three beans per pod are considered more marketable and more profitable for the farmer.
Plans are underway to replicate the study (GS12-118), “Increasing Fresh Virginia-Grown Edamame Supply Through Season Extension Techniques,” in 2013.
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.