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Wisconsin Agriculturist

Soybeans struggle in dry spring

Mississippi soybeans had one of the most uneven starts they have had in years, but one constant is the need for rain.

Dan Poston, northwest district soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said Delta soybeans looked pretty good in late May, but time was running out for fields to get a rain.

“Some areas caught rain, and some are so dry that people are making their first round of irrigation,” Poston said. “Without rain in the forecast, even those that caught rain in mid-May would have to start irrigation by the first week of June.”

Soybeans in the Delta were 90 percent planted by late May in what was a later start than usual. Poston said growing conditions in the Delta mostly have been good, but that will change unless rains come soon.

Extremely dry conditions in March and April postponed planting, and an Easter cold snap damaged some soybeans that were planted early and had already emerged. Poston said some growers chose to plant later than normal so soybean harvest would not overlap with corn harvest.

“I think we’ll finish with about 1.5 million acres of soybeans or more,” Poston said. “It really depends on how many folks will plant beans behind wheat.”

In the Delta, few farmers doublecrop wheat and soybeans, but prices near $8 a bushel encouraged many producers to harvest the wheat and immediately plant late soybeans.

“If they’ve got irrigation, they can do a pretty good job if they manage diseases and insects, but dryland soybeans are pretty risky when planted this late,” Poston said.

While the Delta had some scattered and timely rains, fields in east Mississippi did not. “We are very, very dry,” said Dennis Reginelli, Extension agronomist serving the Noxubee County area. “This has been a tough spring for all crops. Soybeans were planted later than normal because of early dry conditions, and they need water badly now. They will mature later, making them more susceptible to late-season diseases.”

Reginelli said east Mississippi wheat growers often doublecrop with soybeans, but this year many don’t have enough moisture to plant soybeans as they complete the wheat harvest.

“With wheat prices so high, we planted more wheat than normal and now we’re trying to jump on soybeans,” Reginelli said. “We need a good slow rain. We’re about 13 to 14 inches behind schedule. There’s moisture deep in the soil, but there are just no reserves for the plants to get.”

Very few soybean acres in east Mississippi are irrigated, and those that are rely on reservoirs that started the year very low on water. Soybeans also compete with corn and cotton for supplemental water.

“Growers are having to decide whether to water cotton, corn or soybeans, and soybeans are going to come up short,” Reginelli said. “The water need right now is most for corn, because we still have some time to catch some rains and make these soybeans grow.”

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