South Louisiana’s sugarcane producers aren’t strangers to growing soybeans. Some have rotated the crops for years and interest in the practice “hasn’t backed off,” says Blaine Viator, a crop consultant based in Plattenville, La.
“We have some growers that have been in a soybean/cane rotation for 20 years. Most of those who have some experience with it are very comfortable.”
Over the last three years “we’ve seen a huge increase in that rotation. Many growers purchased used grain equipment — harvesters, planters.
“2010 was also set to be another big soybean year for this area. The problem is that the drought hit us. We ran out of moisture very quickly.”
Only late-Group 3s or early 4s are conducive to rotation with sugarcane. “Anything after that won’t be ready to harvest in time to plant sugarcane behind it in August and September. However, we’ve also found the indeterminate Group 3s and early 4s have a very narrow planting window to optimize yield due to sensitivity to photoperiod — usually between April 15 and May 10.”
Many sugarcane growers wanted to plant more soybean acres in 2010. But a severe spring drought meant “we planted probably less than half the average of the last two seasons.
“As for those who did plant soybeans, some planted very deep into moisture hoping for the best while others planted very shallow into dust hoping for a rain. That’s led to a lot of uneven emergence in the same field — everything from three trifoliates to cotyledons popping out of the ground. Some of the seed that was planted into dust laid there for weeks before a rain arrived and now they’re up to a perfect stand. Of course, we’re now past (the optimal) May 10 deadline for planting cane-land soybeans and that’ll be a concern at the end of the season.”