Other Funding | Agricultural Systems
Virginia | Virginia State University Agricultural Research Station | 1890 Institutions Region
Research in edamame production at Virginia State University provides Virginia farmers with information they need to embrace this potentially lucrative cash crop, which is especially important in light of the tobacco and peanut quota buyouts of the early 2000s.
Since the peanut and tobacco quota buyouts of 2002 and 2004, farmers in Southside Virginia and the southwestern part of the state have experienced loss of income and cropland. In the search for alternative crops to replace the two former mainstays of Virginia agriculture, researchers at Virginia State University (VSU) have identified vegetable soybean (edamame) as a potentially profitable option for former tobacco farmers. Unlike commodity soybean, edamame is harvested green and marketed as a specialty vegetable. Similar to tobacco in that it lends itself to intensive cultivation in small holdings, edamame can, with proper marketing, emerge as a lucrative cash crop. For example, sales have averaged $2 per pound of fresh in-the-pod edamame, and one grower was able to sell half-pound packs of shelled edamame for $6.
With support from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, VSU is working with Southside growers to commercialize three edamame varieties developed by the Soybean Breeding Program at the VSU Agriculture Research Station. So far, 25 growers have been contracted to grow and market edamame. The project has purchased harvesting and processing equipment and set up a centralized processing facility in Farmville, Va. VSU Cooperative Extension continues to provide marketing support.
Impacts: Twenty-five former tobacco farmers have been trained to grow and market edamame; a consumer base for edamame grown in Southside Virginia has been established and continues to expand; edamame is beginning to be recognized as a specialty crop in Virginia.