Arkansas soybean farmers are headed back to the fields to finish harvesting a promising 2.8-million acre crop after recent rains and wet fields caused a delay.

“The USDA is forecasting that farmers will average 38 bushels an acre for the statewide average yield,” said Jeremy Ross, soybean specialist with the Arkansas Extension Service. “If that holds true, it would be a bushel less than the state record set in 2004.”

It remains to be seen if that estimate is good. “It might be a little high because of the hot August we had. That knocked our yield down some, so I would be surprised if we actually get 38 bushels.”

Ross said about 60 percent of the crop had been harvested when the rains hit recently. Early in the harvest, he was hearing yields of 65-85 bushels per acre.

One producer, participating in a yield contest to raise 100 bushels per acre, flirted with, but did not break, the 100-bushel mark. “The closest to 100 bushels was 92 by a producer in Craighead County,” Ross said.

The producer would have won $50,000 if he had bested the mark in a contest sponsored by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and the Arkansas Soybean Association. Thirty-six producers participated in the contest to encourage Arkansas farmers to strive for higher yields. Ross said the one-time prize money would roll over to another contest next year.

The season started out on a promising note. “Early on, we were looking good, with low insect pressure, cooler temperatures and adequate rainfall. Then August hit, and it turned dry and hot. It didn’t drop below 94 degrees in the daytime. A lot of the crop was in the reproductive stage and we had a lot of flower and pod shed, which probably reduced the yields.”

In September, temperatures moderated and rainfall resumed, but because of the August stresses, the plants put on a lot of vegetation rather than invest resources in reproduction.

Ross said the abundant vegetation on the plants at harvest drove up the moisture level in the pods and farmers were given a reduced price at the mills.

Asian soybean rust was another problem some farmers faced in the summer. The Extension service warned farmers of the disease after it was first discovered in southwest Arkansas and later in eastern Arkansas. A number of farmers were out the additional cost of having to spray fungicides for disease control.

The disease is still in the state and will be until the first frost. The Extension service is still evaluating the extent of losses from the disease.

Ross said farmers are receiving exceptional prices for their soybeans. They’re anxious to harvest the crop and plant wheat behind, since wheat prices are also exceptional and that money comes at wheat harvest in the spring.

e-mail: ljames@uaex.edu