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Delta soybean crop 'a very mixed bag'

“Weather has either made or broken us,” says David Lanclos, Extension soybean specialist with the LSU AgCenter. “We were so dry for so long, and now the rains don’t seem to be letting up. Our corn and grain sorghum crops really benefited from these heavy rains. Those crops needed water and got it.”

The other side of that coin, though, involves Louisiana’s soybean crop.

“We had a lot of drought early and didn’t get many of our soybean acres in,” says Lanclos. “So we’ve had a bunch of producers who planted three to 10 days ago. South Louisiana – I’m referencing parishes south of St. Landry: Jefferson Davis, Acadia, Iberia, Lafayette, all those – have gotten anywhere between 4 and 6 inches of rain.

“Those big rains essentially destroyed the soybeans that hadn’t emerged yet. It’s so unfortunate.”

All over the state, soybeans are being stunted. Lanclos says he’s taken several calls from farmers in bad states of mind.

“They’ve lost 400 acres, 700 acres or more and those stories aren’t isolated. Right now, their options are limited. They could plant more soybeans, but we’re facing a major planting date issue.”

The moisture that killed the soybeans is now hindering the planting of a new crop. It’s going to be at least four days – with no more rainfall – before producers get into many of these fields.

“That puts us into early July,” says Lanclos. “We aren’t saying you can’t plant beans at that late date, but the risks at that point are probably higher than the potential return.

We recommend that soybeans not be planted after June 15. But I’d definitely stop planting on July 1.”

A big concern Lanclos has is that many of the fields to be replanted are on raised bed at 38 inches. As late as it is, he says producers probably need to go narrower than that. “If we don’t, the weeds are going to get out of control and we’ll be fighting for the crop until harvest.”

There’s been a bit of a reprieve in the weather over the last couple of days. But Lanclos says south Louisiana was “absolutely hammered” again Saturday – and he isn’t talking about levels of revelry in the French Quarter.

“Over the weekend, we had a verification field that was hit with 6 inches of rain. Unfortunately, lately I hear such things cited all day every day.”

Double-cropped soybeans seem to be faring a little better, he says.

“The wheat crop is out and was poor. I didn’t hear of many people who cut higher than 50 bushels per acre. The highest I heard was 64 bushels. All the wheat acreage is going back into soybeans. Thus far, the double-crop soybeans seem to be okay.”

Not far behind

“I’m guessing 85 percent to 87 percent of our projected 2.9 million acres are in the ground,” says Chris Tingle, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist. “That’s probably just a few percentage points off our historical average. A lot of people – myself included – seemed to think we were really behind. But, going back to historical notes, we’re really not that far off.”

Overall, crop conditions in the southern part of the state are okay. Group 4 soybeans planted in early April are well into reproductive stages. Pods are showing up in nice numbers, says Tingle.

“I’m cautioning growers to stay on top of insects. Moth trap counts are inching up. We need to start scouting because worm pests could be feeding on our Group 4’s.”

The full-season acreage is looking a lot better, says Tingle. Recently, the state has gotten into some warmer temperatures and flooding has receded. But problems have been left in its muddy wake.

On ground that was previously flooded, weed control has been a major concern. A lot of glyphosate has gone out over the last four days. Tingle says over the next week a lot more will be applied.

“I’m answering a lot of calls on what can be added to Roundup in order to knock out large morningglories.”

“By far” the weather has been the main topic of conversation amongst those in agriculture, says Tingle. “I’ve fielded tons of calls on standing water, flooding – even late planting. Many producers that normally plant in May ended up planting the third week of June. They’re apprehensive and curious about how the crop will develop.”

Arkansas’ double-crop soybean planting has been pushed back at least a week to 10 days. Wet weather has kept combines out of wheat fields and harvest has been delayed. However, over the last couple of days, wheat is being taken out.

There’s also a lot of smoke on the horizon. Fields are being burned off and producers are then “dropping right in” with soybean seed. “I feel that with rain in the forecast on Thursday and Friday, if we can get double-crop acreage planted and catch that rain, it would help the crop immensely,” says Tingle.

“We don’t want the rains to end. Irrigation hasn’t been on the mind of a lot of people because of all the rain. But it shouldn’t be forgotten completely,” he notes.

“Yesterday, I found some soybeans in the upper Grand Prairie on good drainage. Those beans were already showing early signs of stress. Just because we’ve caught some heavy rains, irrigation is still needed. I encourage growers to go ahead and start implementing irrigation plans because that initial watering is crucial. The plants don’t need to be stressed anymore than they’ve already been.

“An older farmer once told me, ‘You’re only seven days away from a drought.’ If we miss the rains forecast for later this week, some wells are going to have to be switched on.”

Lack of consistency

The majority of Mississippi’s crop is early and looks pretty good. But there’s no consistency. Areas of the state are experiencing everything from an excellent soybean crop to fields replanted for the third time.

It’s a “thoroughly mixed bag,” says Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist with Mississippi State University. “There aren’t a lot of differences between north, south or delta parts of the state. It’s hit or miss everywhere.

“It’s strange: the rains we continue to get keep dumping on the areas that have been rained on all season,” says Blaine.

Insect and disease pressure is very minimal at this point. But some hard choices are coming in the next couple of weeks.

“We’ve had to deal with grasshoppers – primarily in no-till fields – throughout the growing season. I get calls on grasshoppers a couple times every week. To deal with grasshoppers, we’ve got some effective and rather inexpensive controls. But in some areas, the grasshoppers got ahead of us. So farmers will make decisions very soon about whether to use pyrethroid combinations to control this pest.”

Despite the weather difficulties of the spring, Blaine believes the Mississippi crop still has potential.

“I think there’s a great chance for good yields in this crop – the horsepower is there, the moisture is available. I feel you’ve got to give a little to get a bunch. And that’s why I think farmers might want to look at treating for grasshoppers.”

Mississippi will probably have more double-crop soybeans this year than it’s had in a long time. The reason for that is abundant moisture.

“I think USDA had us pegged at 1.5 million acres of soybeans. With some corn and cotton acres that were lost in the flooding (and subsequently planted in soybeans), in conjunction with more double-crop beans, we’ll plant 1.6 million acres.”

Blaine says many people may not believe it, “but a sizable portion of the Mississippi crop doesn’t need but 50 days to finish. We have a very early crop and we need to protect it. If we go ahead and coax the crop to maturity, we won’t have to worry so much about late stink bugs hitting our Group 4’s.”

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