Having about half of the Mississippi soybean crop planted by late April is allowing producers to breathe a little easier when they look back on the disastrous year they had in 2009.

Trey Koger, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, urged producers not to make decisions for this year based on the anomalies of last year.

“We probably couldn’t be more opposite from last year to right now,” Koger said. “There was nothing normal about last year, and some producers are questioning whether they should plant later or use different varieties.”

A dry April allowed many acres of soybeans to be planted early. It also gave producers time to do the work left undone last fall when rains kept machinery off the fields.

“We’ve gotten a lot of tillage done and were able to work up a lot of fields that were rutted last fall when farmers tried to get the crop out of the wet ground,” Koger said.

By late April, many areas were getting too dry, and much of the state was ready for some rain.

Koger said he expects Mississippi producers to plant fewer than the 2.15 million soybean acres they planted in 2009. That decrease is a good thing, he said.

“We don’t need that many acres of soybeans. We need 1.5 million to 1.7 million,” Koger said. “We’re very fortunate in Mississippi that we can grow a number of crops, but we need to keep some diversity and follow a good crop rotation system. We were a little too heavy in soybeans when we were over 2 million acres.”

John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist, said soybean prices are about $1 per bushel higher than this time last year and about $1.60 per bushel above the five-year average.

“Futures prices are $9.55 per bushel, and harvest futures contracts are at $9.77 a bushel. Mississippi prices are $9.19 per bushel and $9.43 per bushel for the 2010 crop,” Riley said. “On April 21, futures moved to their highest levels since mid-January based mostly on strong demand from China and demand for soybean meal.”

Increasing exports will be good for prices, but a strengthening U.S. dollar will slow exports. Planting weather has been ideal, and if it remains good through the growing season, that could pressure prices, as well.

Koger said production challenges for the year may include problems with red-banded stink bugs, phomopsis seed decay and glyphosate-resistant weeds.

“We’re curious to see how the year plays out with red-banded stink bugs. That is a pest that we dealt with on a very large scale last year, and we had never dealt with it before on any significant level,” he said. “We’re interested to see how the cold winter affected that pest.”

Koger said phomopsis seed decay cost growers millions of dollars last year and is a problem that sets in when rains close to soybean maturity keep the beans in the field. Glyphosate is widely used for weed control, but some weeds are growing resistant to this herbicide.

“We’ve got some concerns specifically for Palmer pigweed because it’s becoming more of a problem, especially in the northern part of the Delta,” Koger said.

Soybean rust is another weather-related disease problem, but Koger said early planting times may allow the crop to be past its most susceptible stage when this wind-borne fungus is most likely to arrive in the state.

“We hope that we’ll have the crop far enough along so that when rust shows up, it won’t be an issue,” Koger said.