After nine years, in more than 105 fields, the average yield for LSRVP fields was 40.6 bushels an acre, which is about 15 bushels higher than the state average over the past decade. The objective of the LSRVP is to “facilitate through demonstration and consulting that LSU AgCenter recommendations when followed accordingly will enhance profitability.”

What makes the LSRVP successful? In my opinion, there are several factors. To be consistent in obtaining higher yields, variety selection is vital. Variety selection is one parameter of farming that can be controlled, but it is often overlooked. There are many reasons for this, but choosing a variety best suited to an individual farm plays a much larger role in having a successful year than it is given credit for.

After variety selection, scouting or “walking fields” for insect and disease evaluation is critically important. Varieties and Mother Nature have played large roles in increased yields over the past couple of years, but proper and adequate scouting have also enhanced yields. More often than not, fields that have late-season problems such as infestations of aerial blight, cercospera, green bean syndrome or stink bugs usually can be traced back to a misapplication or lack of application of a pesticide. Even with pesticide applications, late-season problems can still emerge but are usually present to a much lesser degree than fields that have not been sprayed.

In 2003, there were several cases where a producer harvested 40-plus bushels an acre and his neighbor harvested only 20 to 25 with the same variety under the same cultural practices, with one exception. That exception, in many cases, is one less application of an insecticide and generally no fungicide application. Across the state, I would estimate that 40 percent of our total bean acreage does not receive a fungicide treatment of any kind during the growing season.

Several lessons were learned this year from the LSRVP. Seven of the larger soybean growing parishes, including Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, Acadia, Evangeline, Concordia, Richland and Morehouse, were involved in the program. Varieties planted included: Asgrow 4902 and 5902, Pioneer 95B96 and 95B43, and Terral 4886 and 59R98. All varieties performed well. In three parishes, irrigation was used at least twice, and the varieties responded favorably. The varieties that were grown using irrigation were Asgrow 4902, Terral 4886 and Pioneer 95B43.

In parishes with irrigated fields, including two that used the Arkansas Scheduler and one that did not, average yield was 42.6 bushels an acre compared to 50.3 for non-irrigated parishes. (Note: Most of the non-irrigated parishes had good growing conditions but were stressed in some situations.) What does this tell us? It is difficult to say, except that I know that it was favorable to have irrigation in those parishes because, without it, yields would have been considerably lower.

Another lesson learned in 2003 was that maturity group planting date is a concept that deserves some more attention. In the past, most soybean varieties were not planted until mid-May or June. This trend is slowly being replaced by earlier planting dates such as late April and the first week of May. In addition, early August delivery premiums from elevators make earlier plantings even more attractive.

I am seeing more Louisiana producers “pushing the window” of earlier beans and planting “early” beans all through the month of May and then going to a mid to late Group V or VI in June. Many beans that were mid-group V’s and planted in the third week of June yielded 40 bushels an acre this year. The St. Landry verification field was planted with Pioneer 95B96 (a 5.9) on June 23 and averaged 48.1 bushels an acre under non-irrigated relatively harsh growing conditions.

The message is: I see and hear of more success stories from producers who are pushing the planting window earlier with Maturity Group V and VI beans rather than pushing the window back with Maturity Group IV beans. In Louisiana, later-maturing beans generally do better than their earlier-maturing counterparts.

Other important points such as diseases, insects and the economics of the LSRVP will be addressed in future articles. In closing, the 2003 growing year for soybeans was probably a record breaker, with NASS predicting 34 bushels an acre across the state. There was some consistency across the highest yielding fields such as adequate fertility, proper variety, and timely and repeated application of pesticides for weeds, insects and - in some cases – disease. Although it seems like a recipe for success, we know it does not always work out that way.

David Lanclos is Extension corn and soybean specialist with the LSU AgCenter.

e-mail: dlanclos@agctr.lsu.edu