For once, here's some Louisiana news out of left field instead of the Gulf: incredibly, the state may be sitting on a soybean yield record.

“NASS (USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service) already has us tabbed for 35 bushels per acre statewide,” said David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension soybean specialist. “The parish breakdowns still haven't been done — and I wouldn't expect them considering there's still 125,000 acres left in the field to cut.

“I'm optimistic we'll maintain a yield of 34 or 35 bushels. If we hit 35 bushels that will be a new state record and is something we can finally be excited about. In light of the financial situation a lot of folks are in right now, that kind of yield would be exceptional.”

For the most part, the state had an excellent growing season.

“That excludes, of course, the area that was hit by drought — parishes like Avoyelles, Rapides, and part of St. Landry. Those parishes had no moisture. It's a shame, because the crop there was looking very good. But they ran out of moisture when it was time to fill the pods.”

It's a “given” the state's 2005 verification program will set a new state yield record. Of the five fields cut, the average is 50 to 51 bushels per acre. In East Carroll Parish, the verification field cut 86.5 bushels. “That's almost unheard of here,” said Lanclos.

In Arkansas, soybean verification fields are also doing well. Most are cutting in the upper 60s, some in the 50s.

Outside the verification program, however, harvest reports are spotty. “I'm hearing yields that run the spectrum,” said Chris Tingle, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist. “One will be good, the next is terrible. It's a crap shoot, I'm afraid.”

Harvest weather has been perfect for the state. Many producers have recently finished their rice and moved into beans.

“I'm still getting e-mails and word about 50-bushel and 60-bushel yields. But I'm also getting some reports of 25-bushel irrigated. A lot depends on the management and where the crop is located. Much of our research data is also all over the board. It's been an interesting year — hopefully one that won't cause producers to go bankrupt.”

The last USDA report estimated Arkansas' statewide average at 34 bushels. Tingle believes that could be a bit optimistic.

“I think we're probably around 32 bushels. Maybe we will hit 34 bushels. I hope we do, but it's going to be tough. There are still a lot of beans in the field. We lost a lot due to shattering in our Group 4s. Producers couldn't get the beans in on time because of a slowed harvest of downed rice.”

The state is close to 65 to 70 percent harvested. “There are some late beans in the state that are still green,” said Tingle. “I'm getting a lot of calls regarding uneven maturity. Lots of 4s, and some 5s, have mature pods, low moisture content and the seed is ready for harvest. However, there's still a lot of leaf matter and green stems.”

A lot of that is attributable to the short, cool snap following Hurricane Rita. With the cooler temperatures, plants “took off” growing again. “We've seen that statewide. Some of our non-irrigated research plots were actually harvested after the irrigated beans. That cool weather gave them a second chance at growth. Unfortunately, it was too late for any yield improvements.”

In Tennessee, the soybean harvest is moving quickly. Thus far, yields have pleased Angela Thompson, the state Extension soybean specialist. “Considering the drought, hurricanes and other things our soybeans have faced, we're pretty happy with our yields.

“All of our Group 3s are out. The majority of our Group 4s are harvested and we're still working on our 5s.

“The Group 3 and 4 yields are higher than we expected. We had some dry weather and we thought it would hurt us badly. However, our 3s are averaging between 40 and 60 bushels. The Group 4s are a little better than the 3s. It's still too early to tell how the 5s will do — we're just getting started in those.”

This year, about 50 percent of Tennessee's beans are Group 5s.

Thompson said there's a lot of talk about corn acres declining and soybeans taking their place next year. “We're anticipating a jump in Group 3 and 4 beans. The early beans have done very well for us.”

Lanclos and Tingle are expecting the same trend.

“I'm hearing soybeans will be planted on a lot more acres whether they're at $5.50 or $5.25,” said Lanclos. “If the farmers I'm talking to hold with intentions, corn will take a hit. Milo acreage may increase slightly because it uses less nitrogen than corn. It appears the smallest cotton crop will be planted in 2006. So, I see us easily well over 1 million acres of beans next year.”

If the markets don't move, “I've heard some estimates of a soybean jump of 500,000 to 1 million acres in Arkansas,” said Tingle. “Obviously, that would be a significant increase.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com