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Plant early to cut drought losses

Arkansas soybean farmers have found that one way to cope with drought is to avoid it. “About 20 percent of the state's acreage is in the Early Soybean Production System, where late Maturity Group III and Group IV varieties are planted in April and early May,” says Richard Klerk, soybean specialist for the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas.

“The idea is to get the beans in early to take advantage of spring and early summer rains and then harvest toward the end of September.”

The early production system is especially beneficial when a field can't be irrigated or it can only be irrigated once or twice.

“The biggest disadvantage of the early production system is that soybean harvest often coincides with rice harvest,” said Klerk. “This has limited the system's use in areas where rice harvest is the priority.”

Klerk noted that early maturing varieties are becoming a larger segment of the seed market. “They're also the fastest growing segment of the University of Arkansas Soybean Variety Performance Trials.”

In addition to measuring yields, UofA scientists are rating varieties for disease and herbicide sensitivity and for characteristics such as relative maturity, lodging and shattering.

The test results are listed in the Arkansas Extension publication Soybean Update, edition 1-01. Contact an Arkansas county Extension office for a copy.

Klerk said, “The later Group IV varieties have generally been some of the best yielding in the early production system, but last year, because of the earliness of the drought, the earlier Group IV varieties did better. They were in and out before the drought got real bad.”

He said University of Arkansas researchers such as Don Dombek are studying even earlier maturing varieties from groups I, II and III from up north to see how they perform in Arkansas. “They're showing some promise, but the research is in its early stages.”

Klerk said if you're going to plant soybeans in April or early May, when there's normally a lot of rain, good drainage is critical. “A seed fungicide treatment is also good insurance for beans planted in cooler, wetter soils.

“Shattering is less of a problem than it used to be, but you still need to harvest as soon as possible when plants get mature.”

Klerk said seed companies are developing early maturing varieties that are better adapted to the South. “There are good conventional varieties on the market and good Roundup Ready varieties. We haven't seen a yield lag. The yields are very competitive.”

C. Richard Maples is an Arkansas Extension communications specialist.

Weather takes toll on beef cattle

HARSH WEATHER in late winter and early spring can take a toll on beef cattle, especially cows and their newborn calves.

“In Arkansas, the weather can change dramatically from day to day,” says Tom Troxel, beef cattle specialist for the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas. “The change can cause health problems for cows and their calves.”

Troxel said heavy rains compound the problems. “Cattle can manage well in very cold weather, but if it rains and their hair coat gets wet, temperatures in the 40s can have a chilling effect.”

Cold, wet weather hits newborn calves especially hard. It can cause them to have scours and respiratory diseases, according to Troxel.

“It's extremely important that newborn calves receive adequate levels of colostrum shortly after birth. Colostrum in the cow's milk contains antibodies that protect the calf from diseases.”

Proper nutrition is critical for the cow and the calf. A cow in good body condition produces more colostrum, which translates into more pounds of gain at weaning. Cows that calve in good body condition also tend to rebreed sooner.

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