As Mississippi's soybean harvest winds down, several areas need attention. For now attention needs to be on possible fall tillage, improvements to drainage, fall weed control and fertility.

Fall tillage often will minimize if not negate the need for fall weed control. The biggest problem for many farmers is the long period between harvest and a killing frost. The window has led to extensive field trips and questions about spraying late-emerging weeds.

If at all possible, try to avoid both. This suggestion stems from nothing more than controlling costs. The biggest concern with excess foliage is the mat uncontrolled fall growth will leave for the following spring.

With the significant price reduction, Roundup is probably the logical choice for controlling early fall vegetation, particularly grasses. Dry weather prior to October was excellent for harvest, but could impact weed control.

One problem in many fields is volunteer soybean plants. The degree of concern depends on how heavy the population is, but it is fairly certain they will be the last species to stop growing.

Fall weed control may not be on a lot of your minds, but it was an option for many fields. A fall application (especially prior to planting corn) is probably one of the best uses of Roundup.

The use of residual materials is also an option early, but the best buy for your money will be a late November/early December application. Late winter/early spring applications will work fine, but the earlier applications of a residual material, such as Valor, Canopy XL, etc., mixed with a burndown material, might eliminate a spring application.

The materials need 10 to 14 days prior to a killing frost to adequately kill emerged vegetation. It may be too late for Roundup to control johnsongrass this fall, but it is an option to consider in future years.

As a spring application, the earlier you apply weed control options, the lower the rate. It may take a while to work, but time is on your side. In addition, applying materials early eliminates drift concerns.

There is much more interest in bedding, which can provide excellent benefits, especially on poorly drained soils. On clay soils, bedding up and following with a roller should leave you ready for planting in the spring. Bedding is more difficult to incorporate into a rice program, but the answer to everyone's concern is improved drainage. Although beds are only part of the equation, they are an option.

With the 2004 crop being harvested so early and producing above average yields in many fields, we need to focus our attention on soil fertility. I am not saying everyone needs fertilizer, but I do believe more acreage needs to be sampled.

Over the last few years, over half of the participating fields in our SMART program needed a maintenance application of phosphorus or potassium. These are just fields we sampled; imagine how many acres go unchecked.

Another reason I point out soil fertility is I know how many farmers feel about fertilizing soybeans. Keep in mind, you have to give to get and higher yields will not continue to come in without cost. Time is on your side, so if you have not yet sampled your acreage, do so — at least do part of the farm and get on a rotation for pulling samples.

Many questions have surfaced about varieties, particularly regarding stem canker, but a little sorting of information will provide answers. There were extremes with the 2004 crop, so I will touch on some guidelines for variety selection in the near future.


Alan Blaine is the Mississippi Extension soybean specialist. e-mail: ablaine@pss.msstate.edu