MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. — Mississippi’s soybeans endured excess rains during the first half of the 2004 season and are plunging into the homestretch in surprisingly good shape.

“It is amazing how this crop has weathered the wet conditions. It helped that the bulk of the crop is early and has a more mature root system,” said Alan Blaine, soybean specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. “It remains important to identify any diseases quickly and determine the best way to address problems.”

For years, Blaine has been encouraging soybean growers to plant the early varieties, such as Group 4s. Many growers try to break ground in the fall so fields will be ready for planting in the spring without more tillage. In addition to reducing trips across the field in the spring, less moisture is lost from the ground.

“We have one of the earliest soybean crops on record for the state with the majority of the fields in Group 4 varieties,” Blaine said. “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.”

Bolivar County, Miss., Extension director Don Respess said fall preparation and dry March weather enabled growers to plant on the first trip across the rut-free fields. He said the Group 4s are looking good and are already filling out their pods.

“Growers, especially those with the earlier crop, are optimistic about the market situation. We should begin harvesting beans in August,” Respess said.

Some of the later planted beans in Bolivar County, about 20 percent of the crop, have been saturated and are just sitting in the fields.

“Those later beans are likely to have insect issues. We’ve seen some stink bugs, but no levels that required treatment yet,” Respess said. “The later-planted beans will eventually require more water and insect treatments.”

Angus Catchot, Extension entomologist, said the earliness of the crop may impact the level of some pests that soybean growers will encounter.

“Traditionally, stink bug and looper populations build high numbers in the latter half of the season. With the majority of this year’s crop booked for August delivery, early planted Group 4s could escape the highest populations,” Catchot said. “Growers still need to watch fields closely as the crop is setting pods and be ready to treat if populations exceed thresholds.”

Catchot said as growers harvest the early crop, stink bugs will be moving into the later maturity groups and later planted soybeans in high numbers.

Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.