You know the crop is late when, in mid-June, there are still full-season soybeans to be planted, never mind a hefty double-crop acreage.
In Arkansas, those straggling, full-season fields “are in areas that were very wet earlier this spring. Most of those fields should be planted (by June 18),” says Jeremy Ross, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist. “Double-crop planting is progressing well. South Arkansas got a good start on wheat harvest. As long as there's adequate moisture, most everyone is putting in soybeans right behind.”
In Louisiana, the soybean crop is in “diverse growth stages because of moisture, mostly,” says Clayton Hollier, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist. “We had a lot of rain early on and that delayed normal planting times. Then it turned dry and caused more delays.”
Since late May, some areas of Louisiana have had regular showers. “Some fields have had nice rains, but not all. For example, research plots south of (Baton Rouge) have needed irrigation. Those same hit-and-miss showers have been all over the state.”
Louisiana's wheat harvest is nearing completion. “Estimates are we're 80 to 90 percent finished. I suspect we're closer to 90 percent.”
The later wheat harvest will push the double-crop beans back, “and we've got plenty of them. This year, wheat acreage doubled to about 400,000 and most of those will be in beans.”
Back in Arkansas, “we're close to the point where we start losing yield if seeds aren't in the ground,” says Ross. “By July 1, we're losing almost a bushel for every day a field isn't planted.”
That's pushing producers to get their wheat out quickly and soybeans planted. But it isn't easy. “We're looking at over 900,000 acres of wheat, so there will be almost that much double-cropped soybeans.
“The wet weather early put us behind the eight-ball. It was too wet early to plant corn, grain sorghum or rice — typically the crops planted first — and then come in with soybean seed.” Because those crops were planted late, “soybeans were pushed that much further back. And with wheat development behind 10 days, or so, the double-crop beans will be at least that late.”
Added to the mix of concerns: Hollier says a later Mid-South soybean crop is more vulnerable to soybean rust. “Enough of our soybean crop is behind to give me pause. Some areas have beans that are two, or three, weeks behind. Now, the majority of the crop isn't extremely late. But enough is that, as a pathologist, I see red flags.”
Soybean rust was recently found in Iberia Parish kudzu in the extreme southern part of the state. “There was a lot of rust on just a few leaves — the incidence was low, but the amount on the leaves was very high, and sporulating. That tells me it's very likely there's more out there, we just haven't run across it yet. So far, a lack of rain (in Iberia Parish) has helped keep the rust in check. Of course, the flipside to that is the soybeans there are suffering.”
If soybean rust reaches an area of Louisiana that isn't so dry, “the buildup of the disease could occur very quickly. It's hot down here and the rust hasn't done much yet. But it won't be long before we find it in more locations.
“We're looking for soybean rust daily. And as soon as we find it, the growers will know. It's to all our benefit to stay ahead of it.”
Arkansas Extension and university researchers met shortly after the Louisiana rust discovery, says Ross. “Everyone is making sure to sample sentinel plots and kudzu patches religiously. Last year, we first detected soybean rust in the sentinel plots. That was very encouraging — the plots worked like they were supposed to. So, even though it may be a little early to scout the sentinel plots, agents are already pulling samples and sending them in. We want to minimize any chances of a surprise.
“I'll tell you this: we're concerned with this late planting. If the big rainfall and wind events continue like they did in the spring, it'll be ideal for rust to come in and become established. On the other hand, if it turns off hot and dry like it did last year mid-July, then we may not have to worry.”
Both men say they've heard concerns about the supply of several fungicides.
“Honestly, I'm not sure how scarce they are, or are not,” says Ross. “But word on the street is making some growers a little nervous. What we're telling everyone is this is a time to closely scout fields and only apply fungicides when needed instead of making pre-emptive blanket applications. Lots of producers put them out for peace of mind. This year, scouting and IPM methodology may be a better answer.”
Several Mid-South fungicide dealers confirm early, bulk purchases of fungicides have been made. However, they say barring the development of soybean rust, there should be plenty of product available.
“A couple of weeks ago, some farmers covered their fungicide needs for later this summer,” says one south Arkansas dealer. “It's kind of like buying extra milk and bread because the weatherman says snow is coming — a couple of guys buy a little more than they need, just in case. Then, someone else sees that, and it kind of sets off a chain reaction.”