The 2008 Louisiana soybean season is still a couple of months away from getting under way, but the conversation statewide is that the soybean seed supply and variety background situation is still uncertain.
What we know is that if soybean seed were not in short supply, Louisiana producers would like to plant well over 1 million acres this year. However, because of the seed shortages, that number will more than likely not be realized.
In attempting to estimate soybean acreage for this year, the word frustrating comes to mind. No one person or company is to blame.
Seed companies, for the most part, have been very forthcoming about the tribulations they have endured to bring the soybeans to market. No seed company wants to continue dumping beans due to poor germination and vigor, but sometimes to ensure quality they have to.
We knew that the 2007 increase of corn acres in the United States would increase interest in soybeans for 2008, but were not prepared for an extremely poor germ and vigor year.
I do have a good estimate on the possible acres, but that is as far as I can stretch it. It has been difficult at best to try to scratch out a number, but it appears there might be enough seed to cover the first planting. The wheat/soybean double cropping systems may not have enough supply to amount to any considerable acreage.
The producers I have spoken with who have been promised beans are evaluating the seed shortage in a couple of different ways. Most are telling me that they have nearly enough to cover a first planting, although they may not have the varieties and quantities they first requested.
If they have wheat/beans and they are planning to double-crop, they are reducing the number of acres of soybeans on the first planting and looking at alternatives such as corn and milo.
Fortunately, the commodity prices for corn and milo are still strong. They need to be at historic highs to offset the increased production costs of fertilizer, chemical, fuel and other inputs. There is historically more financial risk involved with corn and milo up front because of fertilizer costs. This can be recouped later in the season, but the risk is greater than with soybeans alone.
Questions have been numerous regarding soybean varieties that have become available to Louisiana producers over the past couple of weeks. Several companies are selling seed of varieties that have never been tested in LSU trials.
We are getting some of the variety questions figured out. We have some duplication of varieties and that has helped us somewhat.
I have been urging growers and retailers to make sure they speak to somebody about these unknown varieties. I suggest it will be better to not plant beans at all in some situations if we do not know the nature of the variety we are planting.
Here in Louisiana, there is more leeway with a variety from Alexandria north, but taking that unproven bean into southwest or south central Louisiana and having it flop is not good for anybody's bottom line.
Keep calling county agents, seed dealers, and consultants to try and get a handle on some of this seed being offered by brokers. There is not much time left to make seed purchasing decisions. If you get some proven varieties, consider yourself lucky for this year.