Delta skies have finally opened and doused a parched land. While parts of Mississippi are still waiting for their share, late April/early May rains left the other Mid-South states wet.
“It's amazing how things can turn around in the space of about 10 days — especially in heavy rainfall like we've sustained,” said David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension soybeans and corn specialist on May 5. “We were in a severe drought. According to the drought index, we're probably still classified as being in a drought.
“We're still very far behind on annual rainfall. But now we have adequate moisture which has kept the crops alive and provided enough moisture so producers can just get back in fields. We were very fortunate to get these latest rains. In many fields, the corn, milo and beans were in pitiful shape.”
Forecasts call for even more rains in Louisiana, so producers “are doing what they can before those hit. They want to finish up what needs doing.”
There are still pockets of suffering in the state, though. “Traveling around, we'll talk to a farmer who had 3 inches of rain. Then, we'll drive 20 miles north and the farmer there only got a third of an inch. It's that variable. And it's field-by-field. I don't feel comfortable talking about it parish-by-parish. For the most part, though, the latest rains have given everyone who needed rain at least some. Some got 5 inches or more, some got half an inch. Mother Nature heard the call.”
Across the Big Muddy, Alan Blaine knows of areas in Mississippi still in need of rain. “We're in better shape moisture-wise, now,” said the Mississippi Extension soybean specialist. “There are still some areas in the central Delta that didn't get much, though. Some fields got nothing and some got a few tenths of an inch. That's better than nothing, but not enough. We need some more rain.”
Mississippi is approaching 90 percent planted. The state has seen a bit more replanting than normal. “It's been a tough early season,” said Blaine. “We got extremely dry after starting. Then, we had a big hail storm come through that led to replant concerns, soil compaction, and struggling stands. I suspect we'll end up having to replant more than we want.”
In Tennessee, soybean producers are trying to plant around rain. “Some folks planted in April, but the majority of acres are still waiting to go in,” said Angela Thompson, Tennessee Extension soybean specialist. “As soon as it dries up a little, we'll have a bunch of beans going in.”
Meanwhile, Tennessee's soybean producers are going back in the field to see what burndown applications missed. “There was a window where some of the generic dicamba products didn't work very well on glyphosate-resistant horseweed. They're going back with a Gramoxone tank-mix or some Ignite, if it's warm enough.”
The USDA has Arkansas pegged at about a third planted. That's ahead of schedule. “We're about 8 to 10 percent ahead of last year's planting,” said Trey Reaper, Arkansas Extension soybean verification program coordinator. “In areas that were planted in March and early April, the beans have gotten off to a really good start. The first herbicide applications have already gone out.”
In Louisiana, most of the soybean acreage from Alexandria north has been planted. From Alexandria south, planted bean acres are scarce. The reason: drought. However, “we now have the moisture and should be moving through the fields in a serious way,” said Lanclos.
Maturity groups have been the biggest issue for Lanclos recently. “There have been a lot of questions lately on what maturity groups to plant. Should they quit on the 4s and go to 5s? To maximize yields in Louisiana — this is not a Mid-South recommendation — our numbers show around the first week of May it's a good idea to consider Group 5s. If producers stay with 4s, they'll get stands and decent yields. But to maximize yields, look at the 5s.
“We had some producers pushing the 5s earlier this year. I don't know anyone who planted 5s any earlier than April 15. So far, it looks like everything is in pretty good shape.”
Louisiana grain sorghum planting is nearly finished. There are several parishes — some parts of Avoyelles and St. Landry — where producers are still contemplating planting sorghum. “Personally, I wouldn't recommend that.”
Corn planting in Louisiana is nearly finished, USDA says Louisiana will have a tremendous loss of corn acres. “They're saying we'll be down 280,000 acres,” said Lanclos. “I'm optimistic it'll be higher. That's because when corn had a price rally a couple of weeks ago, some producers took advantage and planted more corn. We picked up some late acres from that.”
In a scene repeated across the Mid-South, Tennessee has seen bean leaf beetles and thrips pop up in soybean fields. “We've already had some acres treated,” said Reaper. “I know some Crittenden County acres were treated for bean leaf beetles. I've had calls from consultants and agents about the beetle numbers and threshold questions. Defoliation is happening, and they want to know if it's time to treat. Threshold is up to 40 percent defoliation. That's pretty significant damage.”
Gus Lorenz, Arkansas Extension entomologist, is reporting false chinch bugs in some of the state's soybeans. “That's not something we deal with normally. These have been found in no-till situations where the burndown was put out prior to emergence. The bugs came off the winter host and infested the beans.”
“We've had a few pest problems — been leaf beetle and saltmarsh caterpillars, mostly,” said Lanclos. “For the most part, though, the bean crop has been quiet. The biggest number of calls has been on the beetles.”
In Mississippi, there's been “a lot” of bean leaf beetle pressure on young seedlings, said Blaine. “That doesn't surprise me with all the early planting. We've seen more thrips pressure than we've ever seen. There has been spraying for thrips. When it stays cool for an extended period — dry or wet — the beans will experience thrips pressure. I've had calls on crickets and grasshoppers, but that's not unusual. We have that every year if the no-till fields get dry.”
As for Asian soybean rust, Blaine is closely watching developments in the Southwest and Mexico. “I'm more concerned with rust showing up from the Southwest. The latest report from Mexico said 250 to 300 acres had (been found with) ASR. I don't know if that will provide a big enough inoculum potential to get upset about. Time will tell.”
Lanclos said he's heard Extension criticized for “crying wolf” on ASR. “They'll say, ‘Man, ASR has been here for two years and we haven't had to deal with it.’ Well, everyone better thank God we haven't had to deal with it. If ASR comes in as a player, some producers — especially in southwest and central Louisiana where bean yields aren't the highest — won't be able to function.
“I have full confidence that from Alexandria north, ASR is just something we'll have to deal with if, and when, it arrives. But in some regions of the state, two fungicide applications won't be economically feasible. Because of that, in the long term, we'll lose acres. But that's if and when ASR occurs. Considering it's in Mexico and Texas, there's more reason to stay aware and be cautious.”
Lanclos said chemical companies should be complimented on their recent approach to ASR. “They've really helped out from an educational standpoint. Granted, they're motivated to sell their products. But there's a tremendous amount of new and continuing information available to producers.”
If ASR hits, producers need to pay close attention “because spraying will be fast and furious and there are some big discrepancies between fungicides. We'll need to cover the ground with the best, most efficacious product. Not all compounds are created equal.”