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Louisiana ‘green bean’ fields to be abandoned

BATON ROUGE, La. — With harvest three-quarters finished, Louisiana soybean producers were still seeing far too many green beans.

“We’re fighting green beans all over the place,” says David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension soybean specialist. “That’s the main issue here. We’ll have a few thousand acres that won’t be harvested because of it — maybe 40,000 acres out of 1.1 million acres. Producers are worried: I continue to get calls every day on this.”

Historically, “green beans” have been attributed to stink bugs. This year, however, “We’re rethinking our analysis. We certainly aren’t saying stink bugs haven’t played a role — they have, especially with red-shouldered stink bugs moving through the state. But we feel the environmental stresses — the excessive rainfall as well as drought — have messed up the hormonal levels of the plants. That’s caused many pods not to fill or to slough off. We’ve got a bunch of green plants.”

Louisiana also has the brown pods/green stalk problem being seen throughout the Delta. Lanclos believes that, however, is more of a variety response to stress.

“I see it in certain varieties a lot more than in others. This is an aggravating thing we deal with annually — I think it’s worse this year because of the year’s high stress levels. ‘Green bean,’ meanwhile, doesn’t discriminate with varieties. It’s hit everything.”

In fact, with the exception of region, the problem shows no mercy. Only the northeast has been spared a large dose of green beans. Even wheat-beans there are okay. That, says Lanclos, points back to the rainfall and drought patterns the bulk of the state has seen and the northeast escaped in large measure.

Yields are where Lanclos expected they would be. “We’re seeing a lot of 15- to 20-bushel wheat-beans. If you average everything, I think the state will be in the 30-bushel range.”

Most of the successful beans have been early Group 4s. “That’s great, but I want to go on the record cautioning farmers that risks remain in planting early 4s. This year just happened to be aces for that maturity group. I think we’ll see an increase in early 4s in 2005. I don’t have a problem with that, but growers need to make educated decisions. Next year may not be the best for early 4s — we may get the freeze that everyone has worried about but hasn’t materialized in the last couple of years.”

Lanclos describes Louisiana’s disease and insect pressure as “phenomenal. These red-shouldered stink bugs have spread all over the state, and we haven’t gotten a good handle on how to control them. It’s a bad news pest.”

Louisiana producers normally battle stink bugs annually — mostly greens and browns (with browns being more difficult to control). Producers didn’t see as many browns this year, but red-shouldered stink bugs took their place.

“We don’t know if there’s an interaction between the stink bug types,” says Lanclos. “I’ve never seen a soybean crop that has held stink bugs as long as these have. There are producers that have sprayed three or four times. When they run combines, the red-shouldered bugs fly out of the fields. They’re very hard to control and appear to be here for the long-term. They like Louisiana, which is unfortunate. We’ve got to find a way to deal with them.”

In describing the state’s crop, Lanclos breaks the state into regions. In the northeast, “I’m very pleased. I still believe that a few producers planted too early and got burned, but overall the beans are good. The best Group 4 beans in that area were planted April 1-10. That isn’t saying the 5s and 6s were bad, but the 4s ruled.”

Moving into central, southwest and south Louisiana, the ballgame was totally different. “Of course, we had too much rain at the beginning that morphed into drought. Those areas of the state are where our yield drag is coming from. Farmers there didn’t really have a chance. When it’s all over, we’ll be in the low 30s, I think.”

The state’s 100,000 grain sorghum acres produced “very, very disappointing yields: between 50 and 60 bushels per acre,” says Lanclos. He attributes that to water — the bulk of the state’s milo is grown in five or six parishes, and those happen to be ones suffering from excessive rainfall.

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