Mississippi producers have planted a large percentage of the state's soybean crop well ahead of schedule, giving producers the opportunity for maximum yields.
The May 1 crop progress and condition report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated 69 percent of the soybean crop had been planted. In the last five years, just 38 percent of the crop was typically planted by this date.
Trent Irby, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, called the progress to date phenomenal.
“Mid- to late April is the optimum planting window to maximize yields, and we had the opportunity this year to plant a lot of our acres by the end of April,” Irby said.
Early-planted soybeans have a better chance of benefitting from summer rains and avoiding late-season stresses. These include certain insect and disease pressures, as well as the typical late-summer heat and lack of rainfall.
April in Mississippi is often cool and wet, but this year brought scattered showers and warmer weather — ideal early-season conditions for soybeans.
“We’ve seen issues from seedling disease, partly due to wet conditions,” Irby said. “The biggest challenge so far has been stand establishment, particularly in areas receiving heavy rainfall shortly after planting.”
Under April’s warmer conditions, soybean seed emerged within five to six days after planting. In years when April weather is wet and cool, it may take up to two weeks for the seeds to emerge.
Jason Bond, Extension weed scientist, said weed control with any early-planted crop can be a challenge.
“The soil temperatures and air temperatures that allow us to plant soybeans early have also allowed the summer weeds to come up early,” Bond said. “A big issue was making sure all the Palmer amaranth that had emerged at the time of planting was controlled.”
Also known as pigweed, this weed is present in every crop-producing county in Mississippi. It has developed resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, which is used extensively to control weeds in crops bred to tolerate this chemical. So, controlling Palmer amaranth requires careful management.
“We had Palmer amaranth coming up in March this year well before planting, where usually it is mid- to late April before any comes up,” Bond said. “With the crops and weeds coming up earlier, producers must stay on top of weed control soon after planting.”
Windy conditions made weed control difficult in late April and the first days of May. Bond urged producers to always be aware of nearby crops when applying herbicides.
USDA estimates Mississippi producers will plant 2.25 million acres of soybeans this year, up 10 percent from the acreage planted in 2016. Soybean prices relative to those of other major row crops is driving the increase.
Brian Williams, Extension agricultural economist, said, “Prices have been relatively steady for the last few weeks but are down from March, when they peaked at just over $10.50 a bushel,” Williams said. “A year ago at this time, Greenville soybeans were selling for $10.41 a bushel.”
The large Brazilian harvest combined with large stocks from last year’s crop are lowering prices. Williams said if wet weather across the Midwest continues to cause planting delays, it may give markets a slight bump over the next few weeks.