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ILVO press release - Monday, October 23, 2017

ILVO presents promising first results on growing soy in Flanders (Belgium)

ILVO has new results from crop husbandry and agro-economic research on soy in Flanders. The results will be presented at a (filmed) symposium to close the IWT-LA research project on 23 November 2017 at ILVO in Melle, Belgium. This project has encouraged innovative farmers to sow and harvest 30 ha commercial soy. The farmers are pleased with the results. They confirm the notion that soy culture will grow in Flanders in the coming years. Beside ILVO as project leader, KU Leuven (Campus Geel) and Inagro were involved as partners, and 6 companies provided co-funding (Alpro, Agrifirm, AVEVE, BEMEFA, Boerenbond and Colruyt).

Nitrogen fertilization or proper inoculation?

At the soy seminar on 23 November 2017 the interested soy farmers will hear a number of practical tips. “We have prepared a new crop husbandry guide with the do’s and don’ts for soy on the field. For example, from our field trials, we have been able to determine the optimal plant density: 35-65 seeds/m2 and row distances between 17-50 cm,” says Johan Van Waes (ILVO).

Farmers have a lot of questions about the best times for sowing and harvest, pesticide use and the best way to inoculate the seeds. “Inoculation is very easy,” says Joke Pannecouque, soy expert at ILVO. “In a cement mixer you mix the seeds with the inoculation product, which is a mix of bacteria powder and a substance to help the bacteria stick to the seeds.”

The starting Flemish soy-sector has chosen to buy non-inoculated seeds. That means that the farmers have to coat the seeds themselves with the rhizobium bacteria that ensure that the soy plants can pull nitrogen out of the air to use as fertilizer.

Do they need no nitrogen fertilization at all then? ILVO will give a nuanced answer to this on 23 November.


The first 5 Flemish arable farmers went to work with 30 ha soy. The future of soy culture in Flanders will depend on its profitability. “If about 3 tons/ha is being harvested now, at a price of €500/ha, this is going to work for a limited number of farmers,” says Jef van Meensel (ILVO). For use as a third crop on sandy soil, soy can be a profitable alternative for crops such as grain maize or triticale.

Many factors will influence the future profitability of soy cropping in Flanders: will the price change if the market evolves in a more competitive instead of contract-based direction? How much can the yield improve as more knowledge and better varieties come on the market? And how strong is the price competition from more traditional arable crops? ILVO launched the prognosis that soy can be built into the 6th most important crop in Flanders, with a total cropping area of up to 8%.


Watch the ILVO website (videozone) and ILVO YouTube channel for the filmed presentations from 23 Nov 2017.
ILVO soy expert Joke Pannecoucque,, +32 9 272 26 87
Greet Riebbels, ILVO Communication,, +32 486 260014