While not unscathed, Mid-South soybeans appear to have escaped the ravages of drought experienced in the Midwest.

“Overall, harvest is going great” says Ronnie Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist.We’re close to 75 or 80 percent done. We’re a little behind in the southern part of the state where they typically plant a bit later bean.

“Right now, I’m in a field around Alexandria looking at some beans with wonderful quality. We did have some rain in the last week that may have reduced the quality of a few beans because they were ready and the growers couldn’t harvest them.”

Another 10 days, or so, of good weather and the Louisiana soybean harvest should be finished.

The newer varieties have largely lived up to the hype, says Levy. “Our yields have been extremely good in most areas of the state. Where there is irrigation and/or favorable environmental conditions, we averaged yields in the upper 50s to the lower 90s. Most of the state has seen 50-plus bushels. As whole, we’ve had an excellent year, have increased acreage and expect that to continue in coming years.”

Of course, there are unfortunate exceptions. “It seemed it rained almost every day in areas in the southwest area of the state. Those beans are primarily plant flat and in those continuous rains some of the farmers actually lost acreage.

“Other areas were hit with significant drought and some beans were ready for harvest just prior to the hurricane. So, there were losses associated with those events.”

In Arkansas, Jeremy Ross, Extension soybean specialist, admits to moments of nervousness during the growing season. However, despite “the awful environmental conditions this year, it appears the Arkansas soybean crop will fare pretty well. Right now, the USDA has us tying the record for state average at 39 bushels per acre.

“Early on, I thought that kind of yield was possible. Then, we hit the middle of April and the rains shut down followed by record high temperatures in June and July. That changed my positive outlook.

“I was very concerned, especially once August hit. Farmers were completely out of water. They rely a lot on surface water, recovery systems, ditches or bayous. August rolled around and their reservoirs were dry, ditches and bayous are pumped down.”

In isolated cases some farmers walked away from fields because they didn’t have the water to finish the crop.

“Where there was water, though, we’re seeing some exceptional yields. The southern part of the state is almost done harvesting beans. Harvest is moving north and, in total, we’re about 50 percent done.”

Ross has heard of “some phenomenal yields. It isn’t uncommon to hear reports in the 50- and 60-bushel range. There are plenty of folks with yields in the 70s and 80s, as well. That should help us meet that USDA prediction.”

Is anyone flirting with the 100-bushel mark?

Following initial reports out of south Arkansas, Ross was “hoping someone would do it. Now, though, if someone was going to hit 100, I’d probably have heard about it. If it was going to happen, it would have been in the early-planted beans. I have heard of a few in the 90-bushel range for the yield challenge.”

Pests and disease

Another issue arose late in the season with Asian soybean rust moving through the Mid-South.

The rust caused “minimal impact” on Louisiana yields, says Levy. “Most of the rust came in late and didn’t do much yield damage as far as we can tell. There weren’t any fields devastated by rust.

“What we had problems with was cercospora purple seed stain. With the high market prices and the potential for excellent yields, most folks applied at least one fungicide application. Some put out a fungicide at R-1, some at R-3 and R-5.

“A lot of the early-planted soybeans in north Louisiana has very little incidence of cercospora. In the south -- probably from the stress and injury associated with Hurricane Isaac -- we saw a significant amount of cercospora show up in the later soybeans.”

Soybean rust began to be picked up in southern Arkansas several months ago. But until Isaac stormed through the state, “it was only at low levels and wasn’t moving much,” says Ross. However, “the week or 10 days of cloudy, rainy weather” following Isaac “got the rust going in some of the late beans. The good thing is Isaac happened late enough that only a few fields have had to be treated for rust.

“Four more counties (Craighead, Greene, Jackson and Poinsett) were just categorized ‘hot’ for rust in the state. Right now, we’re sitting at 80 percent of the crop dropping leaves. So, most of the crop will outrun the rust. Some guys – especially those who planted beans behind corn – will probably have to spray.”

The biggest late-season thing producers have had to deal with, says Ross, is the rise of strobilurin-resistant frogeye. “That’s going to mean changing up chemistries in 2013. We’re going to really watch that next year when disease season rolls around.”

Worries about resistant frogeye are also evident in Mississippi. On October 5, Tom Allen, state Extension plant pathologist, wrote “I’ve observed frogeye leaf spot in almost every soybean field I’ve stepped in this season regardless of the county.” (For Allen’s full report, see here).

Note: Resistant frogeye is expected to be a topic of discussion at the Dec. 4 Arkansas Soybean Research Conference at the East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City. For more information, e-mail jross@uaex.edu.

What about pests?

“The red-banded stink bugs are a monster for us,” says Levy. “Last winter was warm and the conditions were favorable for them. There was the potential for a lot of stink bug injury and we spent a lot of money controlling them.”

Arkansashad to deal with bollworm/corn earworm early on. That followed a “bad trouble with them in 2011,” says Ross. “But we never really got the second and third flights early in the season. The heat may have prevented that.”