Mississippi soybean growers are looking in August at a potentially record-setting crop for the third consecutive year. They are hoping rains will hold off to make this year the charm.

Late-season rains in 2001 and 2002 doused opportunities to surpass the 34 bushel-per-acre record of 1992. However, growers managed to average 33 and 32 bushels per acre despite weather conditions those years.

“Mother Nature got us the last two years at harvest, but we once again have the potential of setting a record crop this year,” said Alan Blaine, soybean specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. “Reports on the first harvests indicate yields as high as 70 bushels per acre down to 35 bushels, which is well above our state average.”

Blaine said this crop is variable, but those who were able to plant early are on track to be the big winners this year. Even given the adverse conditions, more than 80 percent was in the ground by May 15. Rains were an obstacle for some growers who were forced to plant much later than normal.

“The state crop is quite variable right now. We have some beans being harvested while plants in other fields are only a few inches tall,” Blaine said. “We would have had more planted early except growers had to contend with rains and fields rutted from last year's harvest. If we had seen a more widespread use of burn-down herbicides, more growers could have planted sooner.”

Recent rains were a blessing for non-irrigated soybean fields, but much of the state has been fortunate to have had above-average rains thus far in the growing season.

Jerry Singleton, area agronomic crops Extension agent based in Leflore County, Miss., said growers are reluctant to express optimism after two harvest seasons robbed them of record yields.

“The early beans are looking very good, but late beans still have a long way to go before we will be able to tell how good their yields will be,” Singleton said. “At this point, every shower adds to the yield potential for the late crop.”

Blaine said insect and disease pressure has varied across the state. Stink bugs were the primary insect pest in some fields. Frog-eye leaf spot and sudden death syndrome have been seen earlier than normal, but still consistent with the crop's growth stage. Blaine encouraged growers to remember this year's challenges during variety selection next year.

“We need to focus on cyst nematode resistance and sudden death syndrome where problems have been observed,” Blaine said.

Mississippi soybean growers planted 1.36 million acres this year, down slightly from 2002. The five-year average yield is almost 27 bushels per acre.


Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.