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Early system helps reduce replanting

(Editor's Note: The last paragraph in Alan Blaine's column in the May 28, 2004, issue of Delta Farm Press should have read: “If you do a good job matching variety to row spacing, you will not lower yields by planting early.” An editing error omitted the word not. The editor apologizes for the confusion, given the concerns this spring regarding early planting.)

I have spent a lot of time this spring talking about early soybean planting, but it is necessary to cover as many points as possible, because I realize that everyone is not on the same page.

We have learned a lot watching the soybean crop this spring. Many saw conditions they never believed plants could have tolerated. Every year our knowledge expands, and I rely on many peers in Mississippi and other states for research information and guidance.

We attempt to pass this information on to you. Some might have been slightly premature, because we often were trying new things as we went. No one has contributed more to this effort than Larry Heatherly, USDA-ARS Stoneville. Larry has decided to retire at the end of the year, and I want to publicly thank him for his efforts, his advice, and his friendship.

Larry and others provided much of the groundwork for the early planting system, and when the recent crop report (May 16) listed Mississippi at 93 percent planted, I know Larry was smiling.

Everything we do is not perfect. In past years we used to replant a lot. Today, replanting in Mississippi is almost nonexistent. Sure, there are extremes, but our replanting efforts have changed dramatically. I believe we owe it to two factors: (1) early planting and (2) use of the proper seed treatment.

A lot of our information comes from growers pushing the window on planting. In addition, I watch something many of you have watched over the years — volunteer plants. How many times have you seen beans emerge prior to planting and thought, “Boy, they sure are tough.” I even know several who have kept limited acreage of volunteer plants over the years to see how they would do. Surprisingly, quite well is most cases.

After all the concerns regarding the earliness of this crop Larry Heatherly (at the suggestion of Owen Taylor) compiled some very interesting information. The table below is a list of planting percentages averaged over the 1998-2002 seasons. It starts with the most northern location and goes south. One point that stands out is that all locations north of Mississippi had a higher percentage of the crop in the ground one week after the 50 percent last frost date than we did.

Think about these numbers. Until this season, our planting percentage one week after the 50 percent last frost date has not been as high as the northern areas. Our five-year planting percentage on May 4 is 44 percent. That may seem like a lot, but it is five weeks after the 50 percent last frost date at Stoneville. The closest we came was 10 percent, but that was two weeks after the 50 percent last frost date.

In other words, if folks in Davenport, Iowa, and Hastings, Neb., are not concerned about frost, I think we can relax a little. One factor that does deter planting for us is our rainy springs versus the Midwest. However, Midwest soils are much colder than ours at planting.

Alan Blaine is the Mississippi Extension soybean specialist. e-mail:

Planting progress for soybeans in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi in relation to 50 percent last spring frost (36 degrees) date. Compiled by Dr. Larry Heatherly, USDA-ARS, Stoneville, Miss.

50% last frost (36°) Planting Progress (1998-2002)
State Date and Location May 4* May 11 May 18
Iowa April 27 (Davenport 41.32 N) 11 28 54
Nebraska May 5 (Hastings 40.37 N) 7 20 46
Illinois April 27 (Harrisburg 37.40 N) 11 28 43
Missouri April 17 (Sikeston 36.52 N) 11 19 31
Mississippi** March 30 (Stoneville 33.26 N) 44 58 73
*First planting progress report for Midwestern states.
Iowa: 11% planted by 1 week after 50% last frost date.
Nebraska: 7% planted by 50% last frost date.
Illinois 11% planted by 1 week after 50% last frost date.
Missouri 11% planted by 2 weeks after 50% last frost date.
Mississippi** 10% planted by April 12 or 2 weeks after 50% last frost date.
44% planted by 5 weeks after 50% last frost date.
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