Small-seeded, highly water absorbing edible soybeans varieties have been grown for a number of years in Virginia, but new contract opportunities from Montague Farms offer even more opportunities for the 2007 season.

In the past yield has been a problem in Virginia. Natto beans have only yielded about 80 percent of the yield of conventional beans grown for oil and livestock feed.

MFS-591 is the ‘gold standard’ for natto soybean varieties, because of its high quality. Virginia Tech soybean breeders have been able to develop varieties with yield potential comparable to conventional beans, but these varieties have not met quality standards of MFS-591

Katy Rainey, a plant breeder at Virginia Tech says, “flavor, color and seed hardness are critical quality factors in the small seeded natto beans. Our breeding material is among the best in the World, and these beans are in high demand in Japan.” The challenge, she says is to incorporate all these traits, plus yield potential, into one variety.

For growers who are able to meet these quality standards, premium prices may be $2.25 per bushel for Natto beans, compared to conventional beans. Growers interested in growing natto beans should contact Virginia Tech Soybean Specialist David Holshouser.

Holshouser, who has headed Virginia Tech’s soybean program for 10 years says the addition of natto beans as a niche crop for Virginia growers brings some challenges to both soybean growers and researchers.

“Hogs, cattle and chickens may not be too particular to how soybeans taste, but the people who eat edible beans are keenly aware of it,” he says.

e-mail: rroberson@farmpress.com