On July 18, what the touring crowd saw in Sid Fogg's field at Widener, Ark., wasn't just early soybean production but ultra-early soybean production. On decent ground, the plant height and bean load were good.
“Last year, I had some 3701s that I planted on April 1 and cut Aug. 1. They cut 32 bushels. The next variety (a maturity Group 4.4) made 25 bushels. The next variety (a 4.7) made 20 bushels. A 5-point-something made nothing,” Fogg said at a stop during the St. Francis County, Ark., field day.
With the way the weather was last year, the early beans did far better than the late beans. Fogg says this made him think, “If I get a bean earlier than 3.7, I might make 40 bushels. I wanted a bean that was about a week ahead of my 3.7s.”
Fogg asked Margie Cannon, Extension agent for St. Francis County, if they could come up with a soybean variety between 2.7 and 3.7. Nine varieties were found.
One was Croplan 2912, a variety that “no one had heard of down here. We planted 80 acres of that variety. We've already cut them at a 25-bushel average.”
Fogg planted the variety on March 27. The fields got a rain and the beans came up April 7. On one extremely sandy field, Fogg had a 20-bushel average. On another field with better soils, he had some 30-bushel yields.
“This 2.9 wasn't a 2.9 when it came down here. It matured quicker here. When we harvested the beans, the grainery couldn't believe we weren't pulling these beans out of a bin.”
Jack Frost visits
Early-planted crops are always susceptible to frost damage. On April 18, the weather report said it was going to be 33 degrees that night. Luckily, it only got to 37.
But driving out the next morning, Fogg noticed all the rooftops were white with frost. “That worried me. The beans were 4 or 5 inches tall and icy. But they made it.”
Fogg jokes, “If you decide to try this and get a freeze, don't call me! I don't know what the beans will take.
“We sprayed Roundup twice. When you plant so early, you've got to spread the Roundup application out. We sprayed three weeks after they came up and three weeks after that.”
Fogg had $55 in the crop. Seed cost was $30. The balance was in chemicals and application. Test weight on the beans was 54.6. The moisture for one load was 12.4 and the other measured 13.2.
“We cut July 14 and 15. There were no beans on the ground when we started. But when the combine touched the stalk, it knocked beans on the ground. So I set the reel to knock out 65 pounds per acre. Then, I ran my field cultivator. So all this has been re-planted. If we get a rain, we'll cut again on Nov. 1!”
The Extension take
Without irrigation, Fogg's field is likely to be as good as it'll get, says Lannie Ashlock, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist. Ashlock was concerned about plant height when he heard a demonstration was going in so early.
“We're doing some research in this area by looking at some 00s (out of Canada) through some early Group IVs. Right now, Group I and some IIs look best.”
Ashlock and colleagues went with extremely high seeding rates, trying to get enough height. If you're on good soils with internal drainage, you can take spring rains and keep growing, he says. The problems have come with soils that restrict root systems — like those in the Grand Prairie — that lead to poor plant height.
“If you plant in late March or early April, I'd even try a taller Group IV. Really, what you plant early will be soil-specific.”
Another problem occurred in fields planted in the Arkansas River Valley. Some Group II beans were planted at a very high plant population. Beans planted in silt loam there look great, says Ashlock. But as you get closer to the river, the nematode pressure “is unreal. I didn't anticipate that.”
Cliff Coker, Extension plant pathologist, looked at the fields and said the nematodes were root-knot. None of these indeterminate varieties have any root-knot resistance.
“These soils lend themselves to early planting, but they also lend themselves to nematodes. So we've got half our indeterminates that are dead and half that look fantastic — probably 40 bushels.”
Not only are these varieties susceptible to root knot nematodes, they're also susceptible to chloride.
“If we go to the other side of Crowley's Ridge, the soils tend not to leach. If you've got any kind of salt, you're likely to see some kind of chloride toxicity. We need this type of maturity and I hope that breeders are working on nematode and chloride resistance,” says Ashlock.