While more exact soybean acreage numbers were still a few days away, Louisiana's planting intentions were at 950,000 to 980,000 acres.

“Those numbers appear to be realistic if not on the low side,” said David Lanclos, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist at the Rice Research Station field day in Crowley, La., in late June.

The big story in 2006 is the whooping Mother Nature is again administering to Louisiana farmers. “Statewide, this is one of the worst years we've experienced. The entire state is struggling. (Producers) who aren't accustomed to being dry are definitely suffering. Those not irrigating are suffering the most.”

Southwest Louisiana has been the hardest hit, by far.

“Not only have hurricanes hit here but (numerous) bad environmental conditions. We've taken some bad blows but we're going to keep (moving forward).”

On the positive side of the ledger, insects and disease have been relatively quiet in the state's crop.

“While we're seeing some of the same traditional problems, most have been agronomically related,” he said.

Date of planting is always a concern for farmers.

“Overall, we're in pretty good shape. (Producers) are spending more time on variety selection and are doing a better job of picking maturity groups and deciding when to plant. In these drought conditions many have delayed planting. We have guys continuing to plant even now (late June), primarily in southwest Louisiana.”

As it's late June, producers are definitely outside the recommended planting date window. What to do if they still need to plant?

“You need to plant a Group 5…You want to watch the plant population and make sure it's at least 130,000-plus. In addition, if possible, you need to decrease your row-spacing. Narrow it if possible…and remain vigilant on IPM practices.”

Two things have shown up more this year than Lanclos has seen during his tenure: stunting and premature blooms.

“They're causing quite a bit of alarm. Right now, we're essentially over the hump with this. We've had some rainfall in certain areas that's alleviated the situation. Even so, the crop is shorter in stature.”

Will that mean yield loss?

“Not necessarily — especially in Group 4s. If you planted them in the proper window, they have a tremendous resiliency to branch out and increase yields.

“We've had a lot of guys calling, ‘Man, my Group 4s are 4 inches tall and they're already blooming. What's the problem here?’ I said, ‘Don't be too alarmed.’”

It's a rule of thumb that when Group 4s hit R-1, they'll eventually double in height.

“By R-1, they've reached 40 to 50 percent of their plant height. In contrast, when Group 5s reach R-1, they're already at 80 to 90 percent of their eventual height.”

Lanclos rates the collective soybean crop fair to good.

“I'm still optimistic about where we're going. But we need rainfall.”

ASR

On the lookout for Asian soybean rust, Louisiana has 15 soybean sentinel plots scattered throughout the state.

“They're checked weekly,” said Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist. “We go in and actually take the leaves from the lower portion of the plant and check for the presence of rust.”

Producers can also make use of an ASR hot line (800-516-0865) Padgett frequently updates. “You can call while driving down the road. You don't need a computer.”

In addition to the sentinel plots, Padgett and colleagues are also looking at kudzu. “I check areas on a weekly basis. I also check several plots in the northeast part of the state daily. We handle the kudzu the same way as sentinel plots.”

The wisdom of such vigilance was evident when, shortly after speaking at the field day, Padgett found out ASR had been found in a south Louisiana kudzu patch (see http://deltafarmpress.com/news/063006rust/). The first ASR find of the year in Louisiana, the infected kudzu was found in shade beneath a tree.

In addition, spore traps have been set around the state. Slides from the traps are collected weekly.

“Those slides are sent to Arkansas (labs in Fayetteville), where they're read. If they have any suspicious looking spores, they'll let us know.

“Producers and consultants checking for ASR should go to areas of fields where the disease could be most predominant. Those would be low-lying areas in shade where leaf wetness exists longer in the canopy than anywhere else in the field. Leaf wetness is the key to getting an epidemic started.

“Unfortunately, we need moisture for our crops, right now. (To keep ASR at bay), that's good. From a production standpoint, though, it isn't.”