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Arkansas soybeans need more sun

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Much of Arkansas has received more than adequate rainfall recently, which is delaying soybean planting. Despite the delay, about 30 percent of the 2.9 million-acre crop has been planted as of May 9, which is about normal for this time of year, says Chris Tingle, soybean specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Nearly 70 percent of the crop is typically planted in May and June.

The reason farmers aren't more behind is that a number of them took advantage of favorable weather in early April and had already planted their crops.

"For other producers, the rainfall is delaying land preparation for planting," Tingle said. He said farmers have to wait until fields dry out, but much of the state has fallen into a cycle where it rains every four to five days, preventing drying out.

"Mother Nature can wet the soil more quickly than she can dry it out. She's just not allowing us to take care of business," he said.

Many fields are at capacity as far as drainage is concerned. Drainage ditches are full, causing standing water and flooded conditions in fields.

"Soybeans are not as tolerant of these conditions as some crops, which may cause some producers to have to replant when conditions allow," Tingle said.

While most of the state is getting a good soaking from recent rains, Tingle said the storms seem to have bypassed several southeast Arkansas counties, including Chicot, Ashley and Desha. He said planting is going moderately well in those counties.

Southwest Arkansas producers got their soybeans planted a little earlier because of favorable weather in early April, and their crops appear to be doing well, Tingle said.

The Extension specialist said early-planted soybeans that are well-established on a raised bed system above standing water look good. Temperatures are lower than he'd like to see, he said, but conditions are still favorable for these beans.

"It's the crop that we planted in the last two or three weeks that we're struggling with," said Tingle.

One unfortunate side effect of the rain is that it's encouraging weeds to emerge.

"We're asking producers to practice early-season weed control because this is when you have the most competition from weeds during the growing season. That's where your yield loss occurs. It's not from those weeds that emerge late in the year. Those first six to eight weeks after planting are where we need to have an almost weed-free crop."

Tingle isn't aware of any disease problems, "but I'm sure I'll get those calls as soon as producers are able to get back into fields and evaluate their situation. A lot of our diseases like cool, wet conditions like we've had recently."

For the bulk of the crop that hasn't been planted, farmers aren't in trouble yet.

Many farmers have the ability to plant a considerable acreage in a short period if push comes to shove.

Tingle said he would like to see farmers have their crops in by June 15. "The later we wait, the less yields we receive. Our research has shown that we can plant as late as July 10 and still get a crop, but every day we go past June 15, we tend to lose a good portion of our yield."

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.

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