Preparations for the 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded SARAI (Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal in Afghanistan Initiative) soybean planting season have begun. Shelter for Life (SFL) has been working on multiple components to ensure planting can start the first part of June once the wheat harvest is completed.Shelter For Life field agronomy staff in training session with Lead Agronomist David Quarles. (Shelter for Life photo)Soybeans are a new crop in Afghanistan and it is important to have trained field agronomists. Fifteen agronomists, including five females, were trained to educate the subsistence farmers on soybean growth stages, irrigating soybeans and germination rates. The agronomists will work with the farmers throughout the growing season answering questions and helping ensure a high-quality soybean crop is produced.SFL recruited 50 “Lead Farmers” for the 2013 season. The Lead Farmers help recruit new farmers to plant soybeans, help communicate information to the new farmers and oversee the demonstration plots.In 2013, over 5,000 farmers will plant soybeans in Takhar, Kunduz and Balkh provinces. The Balkh farmers are new for the 2013 season and are located near the Afghan Soy Factory, which will make it convenient for them to deliver their soybeans at harvest time. Each farmer receives an input bundle consisting of 26.4 lbs. of soybean seed, 1.3 oz. of inoculant, 35.2 lbs. of DAP and 44 lbs. of potassium for approximately one-half acre of soybean production.A Takhar farmer collects an input bundle. (Shelter For Life photo)When the farmers picked up their inputs, they also signed the production agreement with the Afghan Soy Factory. Farmers will receive $500 per metric ton (36.75 bushels), less $20 in transportation costs.SARAI is a Food for Progress program funded through a USDA grant and implemented by ASA’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health program.