The Louisiana soybean crop that is planted is looking good with the exception of some early beans that are still experiencing severe drought stress conditions in the southern part of the state. By early June, depending on rain, we will have a large portion of our bean acreage planted with the optimal planting window just being opened. Planting will remain on hold in parts of south Louisiana until a rain comes.
I am estimating that we have about 20 percent of the soybean acres planted by late May with the remaining 80 percent of the fields having either too much or not enough moisture to plant. However, some of this acreage is drying rapidly and is now being planted.
In general, Group 4 soybeans have been planted up to now. My concern is that with the weather conditions that we have been experiencing, producers are being forced to plant between rains. They need to think about staggering maturity groups as the planting season progresses.
Some of my colleagues may disagree with my position on maturity groups, but I believe history speaks for itself. In Louisiana, Maturity Group 4 beans have not done as well as Group 5, Group 6, and Group 7 soybeans, even when planted at optimal planting dates.
In some years — when rainfall and temperatures were just right — the Group 4s have outperformed the later-maturity groups, but overall that is not the case.
Calls have been coming in regarding whether or not it is still okay to plant a Group 4 in an optimal planting date for Group 5 and Group 6 soybeans. According to research and past performance, yes — as long as it is a tall, later-maturing soybean with an indeterminate growth habit.
With May coming to a close, I am urging Louisiana soybean producers to plant later-maturing Group 4 beans if they are going to plant a Group 4. Planting early-maturing varieties now may lead to stunting, premature flowering, increased herbicide costs due to lack of canopy closure and a yield loss.
I strongly support planting portions of acreage in Maturity Group 4 beans because it staggers equipment usage and spreads risks over the long term. But planting Maturity Group 4 beans later than May 15 has risks associated with it.
The planting window for Group 5, Group 6, and Group 7 soybeans has just opened in Louisiana and will remain open until around June 15. Soybeans planted after June 15 require some specific cultural practices to maximize yield.
I did a little non-scientific averaging from last year's soybean yield data. Over several locations across Louisiana, the recommended soybeans yielded: 34.4 bushels per acre for the Group 4s; 43.6 bushels per acre for Group 5s; and 44.3 bushels per acre for the Group 6s and Group 7s combined.
There is tremendous yield potential with the soybean varieties we have available. Planting Group 5 and Group 6 beans now have been very successful in the past and will continue to be as long as we can harvest the crop.
I realize weather conditions, late-season insects and diseases are the main reasons acreage is shifting to earlier varieties. However, the question is, “Can you afford it?”
In Louisiana, we are experimenting with Maturity Group 3 beans this year, so we are definitely trying to see what works and where. I see and hear of more success stories from producers who are pushing the planting window earlier with Group 5 and Group 6 beans rather than pushing the window back with Group 4 beans. This concept is something that we are going to be exploring further.