With extremely wet and then dry conditions, it’s been a schizophrenic growing season for much of the Mid-South soybean crop. In such an environment the value of growing soybeans on beds is being proven.
“Folks that have been in the business a lot longer than I have say they’ve never seen a spring as challenging as the one just past,” said Trey Koger, Mississippi Extension soybean specialist at the recent Terral field day outside Greenville, Miss. “It was especially bad because of the four weeks of wet weather in May followed by four weeks of extremely dry weather in June. Fortunately that has turned around for most Mississippi soybean producers as most have received beneficial rains in the past two weeks.”
On bedding systems, “we see consistent yield increases across years, environments and soil types. In the studies we’ve done, there is a 10 to 35 percent yield increase on beds, depending on a number of factors.”
There are several things Koger and colleagues have noticed this year on the beds. Beans on beds, even in a wet spring, have often only had to be planted once to get a good stand. Meanwhile, “folks across the turn-row planted beans flat on heavy ground and have struggled to get a stand.”
This is no small consideration. Koger said in many cases growers have “spent more money on seed this year — planted more seed — than they ever have.”
Another thing the bedding systems allow is irrigation of small beans. That wouldn’t be possible on flat ground that’s border- or flood-irrigated.
“There’s a lot more flexibility on beds. We’ve watered some very small beans this year. It kind of scared me a little bit — but those beans have done extremely well.
“There are many small beans — 6 to 12 inches tall — just sitting there. They don’t look terribly drought-stressed. But when water is put to them, they have responded very well with tremendous growth in just a short period of time.”
Another thing to remember is plants with short growth won’t lap the middles. “The bottom 8 inches of the plant — 6 to 8 nodes — are really stacked up and don’t have the vegetative growth to support high-yielding growth in many places. That’s happening on flat ground, rowed-up ground, a lot of places — especially on heavier clays.”
A lot of those beans won’t get a fungicide, even in some irrigated fields. That’s because the crop “is past the R-3/R-4 window. Not all are at R-5, but many are. We’ve left so much yield potential on the table with four weeks of wet weather that growers won’t go with the expense of a fungicide. And because of the hot, dry conditions and extreme sunlight intensity there just isn’t a lot of disease pressure currently.”
Insect pressure has also been surprisingly light in many fields.
“Stink bug and bean leaf beetle numbers are starting to build in some areas. But as a whole, where fungicides are being applied on the beans that do have good yield potential, there isn’t insect pressure and growers are holding insecticides out.
“Of course, we know pest pressure is coming at some point. Stink bugs, loopers and other complexes will hit this late-planted crop. We’re also picking up tremendous numbers of bollworm moths and egg masses. We will be treating bollworms in (much) of the late-planted soybean crop in the coming weeks. So, we’re trying to save money now for use later when the pests hit.”