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Corn, soybean prices attract Louisiana acres

LSU AgCenter-sponsored winter meetings focus on corn, soybeans, economics, weed resistance. Good prices mean expected shift of Lousiana acres to more feed grains.

Louisiana farmers are interested in growing more feed grains because of price increases for soybeans and corn, demonstrated by well-attended, LSU AgCenter-sponsored meetings in Vermilion Parish on Jan. 19 and St. Landry Parish on Jan. 20.

Vince Deshotel, LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Landry Parish, said he expects 2011 soybean acreage to increase by 5 to 10 percent in the parish.

“Last year we had just under 94,000 acres in soybeans,” Deshotel said, adding that high fertilizer prices could cause rice and corn acreage to shift to soybeans.

Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter economist, said corn and soybean prices may continue edging upward. “I am not going to go on record to say they are going to $15. I will say $13 soybeans is a good price.”

Supplies of corn and soybeans are tight worldwide. If yields are lower than expected in South America prices could continue to climb.

China is the biggest buyer of soybeans and it’s unlikely the demand will decrease. Also, China has admitted that it will not be self-sufficient in food production.

Demand for U.S. agricultural products could drop if the dollar’s value spikes, Guidry said.

Also, input costs are expected to be higher this year, with diesel exceeding $3 and fertilizer costing at least 10 percent more.

Guidry said soybeans at $14 a bushel will require a 19.2-bushel yield to break even, with expenses averaging between $250 to $275 per acre.  If bean prices drop to $10 the break-even yield would have to be 22.4 bushels.

Daniel Stephenson, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said other states have had serious herbicide resistance problems in the past few years but the problems were first confirmed in Louisiana last year. “We have joined the party.”

Stephenson said glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth was confirmed last year from Concordia Parish, and tests are pending on Palmer amaranth plants from two other parishes. Glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass was confirmed last year from Pointe Coupee Parish.

Stephenson said Louisiana farmers should resist the temptation to use only cheap glyphosate. Using a reduced rate of the chemical only increases chances of resistance, he warned. Crop rotation and the use of different herbicides will prevent many resistance problems.

Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist, said soybeans should start with a weed-free field four to six weeks before planting. “If not, the insects in the field are going to attack your seedlings.” 

He advised farmers to budget for the use of harvest aids, such as Gramoxone, because it simplifies harvest.

Levy said LibertyLink soybeans offer a good alternative for fields near rice. Drift from the herbicide Ignite used with LibertyLink beans is not nearly as damaging on rice as glyphosate, or Roundup.

Jeff Davis, LSU AgCenter entomologist, advised farmers that spraying an entire field for stinkbugs may not be required if the pests are only found on the edges. He said scouting is best done in a “W” pattern.

Davis said it’s important for farmers to vary insecticides to reduce resistance, and there are no new pesticides about to hit the market.  “It’s going to be probably five or six years before we see anything new.”

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