Great yields and great prices are a welcome combination to soybean producers in Arkansas and Louisiana.
“Producers are chomping at the bit, ready to get the crop out, get it delivered and take advantage of the current prices,” says Chris Tingle, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist. “Demand is up and Arkansas farmers are happy. It's a rare year that the Midwest crop is poor. Delta farmers are looking to fill the gap as best they can.”
Arkansas could set a new yield record.
“So far, yields being reported are above average,” says Tingle. “I wouldn't have even considered (a record crop being) a possibility even two weeks ago. But the more fields that are being cut and showing great results, the higher my confidence gets. USDA put our projected state average yield at 35 bushels.
“That would beat the old record by a bushel (set in 1994 and tied last year). We're sitting pretty good.”
Louisiana is around 60 percent harvested. Yields for early Group 4s show this was a “Group 4 year,” says David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension soybean specialist. “No doubt about that. I'm being quoted anywhere from 30 bushel to 60 bushel yields. The norm on that is probably around 45 to 50 bushels.”
Many of Louisiana's soybean acres were late. Well over 150,000 acres were planted the last week of June or the first week of July.
“That's a big chunk out of our 800,000 acre total,” says Lanclos. “Those late acres are what have been hit hardest. They looked good really early but then suffered until we got a much-needed rain. Rains arrived just at the breaking point.”
Arkansas is approaching almost 45 percent harvested. Weather has been a factor — showers have delayed things in some parts of the state.
“We would normally have a lot more out by now,” says Tingle.
There are some quality problems in the Arkansas crop. Some dryland acres went through dry periods that resulted in shriveled seed. The state also had some late season disease come in that affected quality a bit more.
“However, overall, I'm not hearing much dockage at the elevators,” says Tingle.
The thing that hurt yields in Louisiana's late soybeans has been the “absolute and relentless” attack of stinkbugs, aerial blight and cercospera. Lanclos says he, “can't talk about cercospera enough. I've walked several fields lately where it has caught producers off guard.
“There are a lot of producers who aren't familiar with the disease and aren't sure how to scout for it. Many of those producers have been blindsided. And cercospera has done a real whirlwind job on some of our fields.
“Cercospera is something that we don't have a lot of compound options to deal with. Our breeding programs — both public and private — don't seem to be doing an effective enough job in screening for the disease.
“That's not a secret. In my opinion, cercospera has become our number one production issue in Louisiana soybeans. We're seeing it statewide, from top to bottom.”
Everything isn't doom and gloom, though. Prices are up, weather has been favorable and Louisiana growers are still cutting good beans.
“If the rains hold off, I think within a week or two — up through the first week of November — we should be 95 percent harvested across the state,” says Lanclos. “Quality thus far has been very good. I've gotten calls on a couple of instances of brittle stalks, but predominately the quality situation is excellent.”
The last few days of harvest, Lanclos says some producers have been willing to push the envelope on moisture content. But great prices are driving that.
“Producers are willing to take the elevator dockage just to get the crop out and get paid.”
Regarding the stink bugs and diseases, Lanclos says both hit mid-to-late season. That meant management decisions were much tougher to make.
“I got a lot of calls saying, ‘I'm at R-6, do I still need to spray stink bugs?’ At that point, it's a quality issue versus a yield issue. It can be a hard call to make.”
Does the late harvest concern Tingle?
“If we had a hurricane sitting in the Gulf coming at us, I'd be a lot more concerned. If it turns warm, humid and rainy, that is a major concern.
“But if we stay cool — like some of the nighttime temperatures we're experiencing now — I don't think we'll be dinged up as bad. Optimally we want to go ahead and get the crop out. But, so far, it isn't like the last couple of years when warm fronts moved in and some soybeans were trying to sprout. We're seeing none of that.”
As far as Arkansas' crop being late — “we're pretty much past any problems that are associated with a frost. Ideally, we'd like the crop to go ahead and die on its own. That's when we maximize yields.”
This season, Arkansas had almost 600,000 acres treated with a fungicide.
“That's unheard of in Arkansas soybeans. But there was enough disease to justify it and the good crop shows it was the right thing to do. The benefits from fungicide applications are carrying on even now. We're seeing much cleaner fields and many of the smaller diseases — nibblers — aren't present.”
South of I-40, a large portion of Arkansas' soybeans is already out. There have been a lot more delays in the northern half of the state — primarily in the northeast — due to May rains. That's been reflected in beans unready to be harvested in early October. The majority of the crop north of I-40 is still in the field.
“So far everything is coming along well, though. Many of the double-crop verification fields are being cut. One, in Arkansas County, was cut (the third week of October) and averaged about 65 bushels. Stories like that continue to come in.”
On the flipside, “We're also getting reports on fields that didn't do well at all,” says Tingle. “We can trace that back to environmental problems or a drop-off in management at a crucial time. But for the most part, things are looking great. I tell you, the prices are worth celebrating.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Arkansas Soybean Research Conference will be held Dec. 11 at the Brinkley Convention Center. “The meeting is geared toward consultants, producers and agents,” says Tingle. “We'll highlight some of the new research ideas that the experiment stations and Extension personnel are working on.”