Considering everything it's faced this growing season, the rapidly maturing Delta soybean crop impresses Extension specialists. If the weather cooperates during harvest, the embattled crop may make a solid — even excellent — showing.
“If the good Lord gives us a harvest season, which we certainly deserve after the last two years we've had, we are going to have the best crop ever in the state of Mississippi,” says Alan Blaine, Mississippi Extension soybean specialist.
The credit for this year's bumper soybean crop goes both to the newer, high-yielding varieties available and to growers for selecting the best from the rest. Add to that, earlier planting dates, which have also helped to boost yields.
“We've got some March-planted group 3s and 4s that are yielding tremendously,” says Blaine. “I'm hearing about some good early yields, including some dryland fields yielding 70 bushels or more per acre.”
Overall, Blaine says, Mississippi's soybean crop is a good bit ahead of its neighboring states. That earliness can be traced back to planting dates. As of May 16, 83 percent of Mississippi's soybean crop was planted, compared to 17 percent in Louisiana, and only 7 percent planted in Arkansas.
Blaine says to continue making above average yields year-in and year-out will require some late-season management decisions on both irrigated and dryland soybeans.
“We need to manage our fields not for the highest yield, but for the highest economic return. Experience has shown us that will require some late-season management in some years,” Blaine says. “Every field stands on its own, based on planting date, crop condition, variety selection, disease pressure and tillage system.”
Another key factor in obtaining the highest yields possible is insect control.
Stinkbugs and worms are the predominant late-season pests Delta soybean growers must watch. However, because of variations in planting dates and crop conditions, entomologists are also documenting more bean leaf beetles and three-cornered alfalfa hoppers.
“I think we really have to consider managing sub-threshold levels of insects,” Blaine adds. “If you've got a 60 percent threshold of stinkbugs three weeks in a row, you're going to have to make some difficult treatment decisions. Those sustaining levels of insects that have yet to reach threshold levels warrant some serious consideration from a management standpoint. And sometimes it's cheaper to piggyback something with another treatment, than to apply an insecticide treatment alone.”
It's fair to say Louisiana's overall crop looks “solid,” says David Lanclos, Louisiana Extension soybean specialist. The crop has some isolated problems, though. The predominant troubles are in trying to figure out how to harvest a crop that's been replanted — sometimes as many as three times in the same field.
“Overall, we don't have record yield potential by any means,” says Lanclos. “There are some excellent fields and some poor fields — add them up and hopefully we've got a good crop. The weather is the main cause of the uncertainty, not some production practice. I think we'll see some yields of 50 to 55 bushels and some average fields in the 20- to 25-bushel range.”
Louisiana's southern half won't have the soybean crop the northern half will. “The south just didn't get the breaks from the weather that the north got. The north seemed to get rains at the appropriate times.”
The big story so far this year “is the small amount of insecticides and fungicides we've put out,” says Lanclos. “The switching of extreme weather patterns — too hot and dry or too wet — hasn't allowed diseases to take off yet.” That may change. Lanclos is fielding many reports concerning frogeye leafspot.
Chris Tingle, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist, hopes his state's soybean crop has amnesia. That way “it won't remember what came early in the season and will keep picking up steam. We've still got fields that haven't recovered from the early flooding and subsequent weed control issues. But across the road from a bad field there may be an excellent field of soybeans. It's hit-and-miss all over the state. Early on, we were looking at a disaster. But I think we'll do much better than folks feared we might back in May or early June.”
Most of the state's crop is “looking okay” although some insect and disease-related problems are arising. “We're beginning to spray more fields for green and brown stink bugs. There are some fields that have been treated three times. We believe the numbers are building and threatening. I'm encouraging growers with Group 5s that are just now blooming to stay on top of this pest. Scout early and often.”
In the southern part of Arkansas, some fields are being treated for corn earworms. Fields hit by nematodes also continue to surface.
“I was in Clay County late last week. Fields there are being affected by aerial web blight. Those problems are definitely at treatment levels.”
Weather conditions in northeastern Arkansas over the last week to 10 days have set fields up for disease, says Tingle. Frogeye leafspot is a major concern right now.
Because of the early rains, Tennessee has more later-planted soybeans than normal. Even soybeans that weren't double-cropped were planted with wheat beans, says Angela Thompson.
“We've had good moisture through July and into August,” says Thompson, Tennessee Extension soybean specialist. “That has been really good for most of our crop. Moisture is usually the biggest limiting factor for Tennessee soybeans — we have very few irrigated acres.”
In some areas, though, the moisture is causing some problems and concerns. In bottomlands that aren't drying out, diseases are showing up.
“Stink bug pressure is a bit heavier than last year and sprayings are ongoing. This is a mix of greens and browns — although there are more greens.”
Producers are also spraying for frogeye leafspot in some areas. And Thompson suspects that if the state keeps getting steady rains, “we expect to see more anthracnose later.”
Yield potential looks good, mainly because of the better-than-average moisture.
“USDA has Tennessee projected at 1.18 million acres of soybeans. That's up a bit from last year. But I know farmers were trying to plant beans all spring who finally quit trying in mid-June. That may bring our acreage down a little.”