ALEXANDRIA, La. - The weather has been the topic of conversation in much of the state. With the rains supposedly stopping for the next week or so, it should allow farmers to begin or resume planting, depending on the crop situation. Before these last rains, moisture was a limiting factor in some areas.

Regarding soybeans, I am somewhat worried about the “early crop” that has been planted for over a month in some situations; in other words, the March plantings. The earliest official report I received in terms of planting was March 5, which, in any situation, is early or non-optimal for Louisiana. I certainly hope for the best for this portion of the crop, but I am worried.

It is still hard to assess planted areas, but I estimate we are somewhere conservatively around 25 percent to 30 percent planted, considering planting intentions exceed a million acres this year. What worries me even more is that today (April 15) our Maturity Group 4 plantings are essentially finished, with the exception of some portions of the state. Parishes such as Jeff Davis, Acadia and Pointe Coupee are just beginning to put some MG 4s in and should reap the benefits of waiting for an optimal date to plant.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the amount of MG 5s being planted and that have been planted. I have been in many of the seed dealerships this week delivering seed, and the reports are distressing. I am told that some producers have planted all of their booked MG 4s and are now planting their booked MG 5s. The bottom line is this – I really hope that yield ramifications of planting too early are not as drastic as they could be, but previous research and experience tell us otherwise. I am most worried about the March plantings, not the fields planted in April.

Many variables can be controlled in an attempt to reduce additional stresses to the crop such as staying on top of early-season weed control, insects and diseases. I agree with my colleague Alan Blaine from Mississippi State University that some of these beans that have been planted early on 30- and 38-inch row spacings will never canopy, and early-season weed control will be imperative.

At this point, if August delivery is not your main focus, maximizing yield should be. I have said for months that, with soybean prices the way they are, maximizing yield instead of striving for an August premium would be more financially advantageous in most situations.

Isolated reports of cold-damaged beans have been received on the most susceptible fields where the crop was actually emerging. A tremendous amount of acreage will be planted this weekend and next week because of the optimal environmental conditions meteorologists are predicting.

I have also been working corn complaints across the state, with much of the same symptoms being reported. Most of the complaints are related to cold weather, which is just causing the latest-planted fields (somewhere around April 1 through 5) to be hardest hit. In addition to fields just being stagnant regarding growth, some phosphorus and magnesium deficiencies have been seen.

The corn crop is in great shape. Most of the fields have moisture, and, as the temperatures rise, will grow out of most of the cold stresses we see right now. The biggest problem with the corn crop thus far is that nitrogen is being put out too early while the crop is still under stress and not actively growing. I have seen knife rigs running on corn as small as 4 inches or V2.

To maximize nitrogen use, wait until corn is about 12 inches tall. This will allow the plant to use the nitrogen more efficiently once the plant is growing. Once again, I fully realize that one individual has to cover more ground, and this is the main reason behind pushing the nitrogen applications; but try to wait a little longer.

David Lanclos is the Extension corn and soybean specialist for the LSU AgCenter.

e-mail: dlanclos@agcenter.lsu.edu