For many Mid-South producers the annual gamble of farming took on higher stakes this year. More early-maturing soybean varieties were planted on Mid-South acres than ever before, and most were contracted for guaranteed delivery in August.

By the end of planting, MSU Extension soybean specialist Alan Blaine categorized Mississippi's 2004 soybean crop as “one of the earliest on record for the state, with the majority of the fields in Group 4 varieties. By reaching maturity sooner, plants should not be as prone to suffer from the typical dry conditions, and growers will be able to harvest much earlier.”

He was right about the earlier harvest. By Aug. 13, trucks were lined up at south and central Mississippi grain elevators with high-quality soybeans and yields ranging from 40 to 70 bushels an acre.

Steve Nail, president and CEO of Farmers Grain Terminal, Inc., headquartered in Greenville, Miss., says FGT received twice as many soybeans the first two weeks of August this year as it received during the same time period last year.

FGT has elevators in nine locations in northeast Louisiana, southeast Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta.

Nail says that of the 4,000 producer-owners of FGT, Mississippi producers are well ahead in soybean delivery.

“The quality is good on these early soybeans, and the yields are between 40 and 70 bushels per acre in general, with most of them in the 50- to 60-bushel range.

Even though the yields are well above the state's average, Nail says the increase in soybeans being delivered so early in the season is due to the increase in acres planted to early-maturing varieties and not the yields.

“The yields appear to be about the same as last year… good yields,” he says. “We got a few beans in late July, but the majority of them have come in the last 10 days.”

Nail says the majority of those beans were contracted, and growers received a premium for the early delivery.

“The premium ranged from 25 cents to as high as a $1.50 a bushel. The variation would have been when they booked them,” he says. “Currently, it (the premium) is down to about 15 or 20 cents. The big rush to get them harvested and get them in isn't as great now as it was. They are just doing it now because they are ready,” says Nail.

However, farther north in the state, a spokesperson at North Mississippi Grain Company in Senatobia, Miss., said as of Aug. 13, it had not received any soybeans for early delivery. And crop reports from USDA do not report any significant soybean harvest in Arkansas, Tennessee or the Missouri Bootheel.

“Strangely enough, Mississippi came in earlier than Louisiana this year. We usually see Louisiana first, but so far Mississippi producers are leading the pack,” says Nail.

Dan Poston, Delta soybean specialist for the MSU Extension Service, says yields for soybeans harvested so far in the central Delta are better than expected given excessive June rains.

“Most yield reports range from 45 bushels to 60 bushels an acre for most dryland acres and 65 to 75-plus bushels for some of the well-drained irrigated acres,” says Poston. “I haven't gotten many reports from the north Delta, where rainfall was higher in June, but the yields seem to be better than I would have guessed given the environmental conditions they endured.”

He says the most disappointing harvest thus far has been on limited acreage in flat-planted fields where producers could not get water off during the June rains. The fields are not that widespread, but yields are in the range of 20 bushels to 30 bushels per acre.

“This crop is maturing more uniformly than previous ones because we had more-uniform moisture later in the growing season,” says Poston. However, not every producer who contracted for August delivery met his commitment, and some who sell their beans at delivery would like the 15- to 20-cent premium.

A need for speed has kept the phones ringing for area agronomists. “There is no need to get in a hurry unless you have to make August delivery,” says Poston, “but we've had many questions about desiccants to speed harvest. However, even though there are several recommendations for drying beans to speed harvest, desiccation will not speed maturity of the pod.

Chris Tingle, Extension soybean specialist in Arkansas, is being inundated with calls from growers wanting to know how to accelerate soybean maturity.

“This is not as simple as some would like it to be,” says Tingle. “Applications of products like Gramoxone Extra, sodium chlorate and Aim will desiccate the crop, but they will not accelerate the conversion of moisture to oil within the seed. The applications should be focused more on trying to dry down weed escapes prior to harvest to reduce moisture and trash.”

“Early research has shown that if the crop is desiccated prematurely, yields and seed quality can decrease and harvest can be delayed,” says Tingle. “The best thing for the crop right now is to let it do its thing. I know some producers with August contracts are nervous and probably will not heed this advice, but I must warn of the dangers.”

(For more information about this and other end-of-season management decisions, see the latest issue of Arkansas' Soybean Notes at: http://www.aragriculture.org/News/soybean_notes/2004/August32004%20.pdf.)

For Mississippi producers, Poston says MSU Extension offers the following recommendations for harvest preparation.

  • A treatment of 0.25 pound active ingredient per acre of paraquat and 3 pounds active ingredient per acre sodium chlorate with 0.25 percent v/v nonionic surfactant. “This treatment has a 15-day, pre-harvest interval because of the inclusion of paraquat; therefore this needs to go out at 80 percent leaf drop when the beans still have some green color and leaves,” says Poston.
  • A treatment of 1.4 ounces of product per acre of Aim 2EC and 3 pounds active ingredient per acre sodium chlorate plus 1 percent crop oil concentrate. Poston adds, however, he's seen little difference between 1 ounce per acre and 1.4 ounces per acre of Aim. “This treatment only has a three-day pre-harvest interval, so it can be used to dry down beans and weeds in fields where the soybeans are very close to harvest,” he says.
  • A treatment of 5 pounds active ingredient per acre sodium chlorate. “This has some dry-down capability but needs the herbicidal help from paraquat or Aim to do a good job on weeds and green soybeans,” he says.
  • A treatment of 0.75 pound acid equivalent per acre of glyphosate two weeks prior to harvest — primarily for annual grass infestations only. “This treatment has a 14-day preharvest interval. It will not dry down beans but will improve harvest efficiency and may reduce humidity around mature pods, thereby reducing the likelihood of losses in seed quality due to seed rot. Even if grasses are only yellow at harvest, combining will be much easier,” says Poston.

For more information about soybean desiccants and harvest, contact Poston at dposton@drec.msstate.edu or read about the Delta Research and Extension Center soybean research at http://www.msstate.edu.


Eva Ann Dorris is an ag journalist from Pontotoc, Miss. She can be reached at 662-419-9176 or eadorris@aol.com.