While Arkansas soybean planting is on track, producers are likely wearier than in years past.
“The weather has played a big factor in how we've planted,” said Chris Tingle, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist, in early May. “We're about to wear ourselves out. We're doing a lot of work on dry days, rushing things in between rains.”
Despite the frenzy of activity, the soybean crop is doing well. The calls Tingle has taken about replants “have been either not enough seed, planter calibrations were set incorrectly or the type of planting method chosen didn't work out.
“We had some broadcast-seeded soybeans on clay soils that received 3 or 4 inches of rain shortly after they went out. Those looked pretty bad, so the fields needed to be replanted.”
There have been some problems with soils crusting on lighter-textured ground. But frequent showers have helped soften the soil and alleviated the need for management tools like rotary hoeing.
Tingle has seen “great beans” in Phillips County, Chicot County and other areas that usually plant soybeans in April.
“We got started planting about 10 days earlier than I thought we should have. By March 10, we had lots of beans planted. I was a little worried with soil temps in the 30s at night. It took those beans about 21 days to emerge, and they're just sitting tight, right now. But the stands look decent and I'm pleasantly surprised.”
USDA's last acreage report came out in late March. “They estimated we'd be down around 100,000 acres compared to last year. I thought that was a little optimistic. Originally, I thought we'd drop between 200,000 and 250,000 acres.”
But the weather has dictated more of a crop shift than Tingle anticipated. That's especially true for corn.
“All the rain has kept our corn acreage down. I'm hearing quite a bit of corn seed was turned back in and ground without atrazine is going into soybeans. We may end up with more beans than I thought. The next couple of weeks should tell the tale.”
The state needs “a good, warm forecast,” said Tingle. “The nighttime temperatures of 40 degrees aren't doing our soybeans a big favor. I'd like to see them growing off a little faster.”
The Mississippi corn crop was planted late. “Our acreage was reduced mainly by the weather,” said Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn specialist. “Intentions were also hit because of high nitrogen prices. In terms of hard acreage numbers, I think we'll have around 350,000 acres. That's at least 100,000 acres fewer than last year.”
The corn that was planted looks good. Some of it was planted early in March — “actually that's pretty much the story on the Delta side of the state. Delta farmers planted between rains.”
The first two weeks of April, very little corn was planted in Mississippi. That means much of the eastern part of the state — especially Noxubee County north, which normally holds a large portion of the state's dryland corn acreage — wasn't planted until April 15. Producers have seen good planting weather since then.
Larson has seen a substantial shift to Roundup Ready corn — from around 20 percent of last year's crop to as much a 50 percent or more this time around.
Larson is beginning to hear complaints about phosphorus deficiency. “That usually shows up as purple leaf margins on lower leaves during the last 10 days of April through the first week of May. The reason we normally see it then is the crop's root system is small and phosphorus isn't mobile within the soil. Small roots can't explore and pick up all the phosphorus present in the soil profile.
That isn't the case all the time, though. “Sometimes it's caused by anything limiting root growth from cool soil temps to root pruning from side-dress equipment. Low soil pH is also a promoter of phosphorus deficiency.
“As weather warms up and plants begin to grow quickly, smaller root systems can't supply the plant with enough phosphorus to support its needs. As the roots grow larger, the plant tends to outgrow the problem.”