Some farmers in southeast Arkansas saved combine fuel on their dryland soybean crop this year. That’s because they had no crop to harvest after a nasty growing season.

“For some people it has been a disaster,” said Trey Reaper, Arkansas Extension soybean verification coordinator. “County agents are reporting that non-irrigated beans are ranging from zero to 35 bushels an acre. In a year like this, farmers who cut 35 bushels were fortunate. Most farmers’ non-irrigated soybeans are averaging around 20 bushels per acre.”

By contrast, dryland soybeans in many areas of southeast Arkansas averaged 40-plus bushels in 2003 and 2004.

A cold spell in April, followed by dry, warm weather affected early growth of the early-planted soybeans statewide.

Some southeast Arkansas farmers are beginning to harvest irrigated soybeans. County agents are reporting early yields of 60 bushels to 70 bushels, which is favorable. However, those reports are few and far between.

Reaper believes irrigated yields overall could be down a little. He attributes this to high summer temperatures for long periods, which took a toll on the plants. Farmers were concentrating on making sure their crops weren’t stressed for water, but there was nothing they could do about the heat stress.

In northeast Arkansas, farmers are harvesting dryland and irrigated soybeans.

“They’re starting to get into some fields, and it’s a lot better situation. The yield reports have been favorable. The dryland yields are more in line with what they ought to be in a decent year.”

Reaper attributed this to the northeast receiving more rainfall during the growing season. Also, fewer beans were planted in April, meaning they missed the cold snap.

The USDA is projecting this year’s statewide average for irrigated and non-irrigated soybeans at about 35 bushels. That’s a bushel higher than in 2005, which was also a lean year.

However, Reaper believes the final yield average could be 2 or 3 bushels less than last year.

“It’s hard to imagine that as hard as the weather has been on the crop this year that we’ll have a better year than last year. These last two seasons have been tough on soybean farmers.”

It didn’t help that soybean farmers in the southeast part of Arkansas had to fight a bad bollworm infestation. Then, stink bugs became a problem in late planted soybeans.

With all the problems farmers have had, why do they continue to grow dryland soybeans?

“They really don’t have any other choice. It’s a low-input crop to grow. In a normal weather year, you can cut favorable yields.”

Reaper expects farmers to wrap up harvest of all soybeans by mid-November.