Like many others, Alan Blaine says he is tired of the rain. In one recent week, “we got from 8 inches to13 inches of rain in the north Delta portion of Mississippi — predominantly north of Highway 8,” says Blaine, Mississippi Extension soybean specialist. “There's a significant amount of flooding, the rivers and ditches are full and backing out and water isn't receding very quickly.
“I think it's fixing to cause us some significant problems because it isn't just the Delta that's been deluged. There's been a lot of water fall in the Ohio River Valley too. All of that rain is coming down the Mississippi River right towards us. We're going to start seeing a lot of water start stacking up in the south Delta.”
But Blaine, like his specialist comrades in Louisiana and Arkansas, says the rain has been either feast or famine.
“It's the weirdest thing: if you get south of Highway 8 — really Highway 82 — there are still folks down there begging for a rain,” he says. “There are some wild swings in this state.”
Mississippi soybean acreage was about 70 percent planted when all the rain hit.
“We were cooking and things were looking so good, we should have known it would turn. But who would have guessed 13 inches of rain? At this point, I'm guessing we'll replant probably 5 percent. But it may be a while before it's planted.”
One thing that's yet to be seen is what will happen along the Mississippi River, says Blaine. As mentioned, the Ohio Valley is sending excess water towards Vicksburg. The question is: As the river comes up and the gates at Steele Bayou where the Yazoo River empties into the Mississippi get shut, how much will the water back up?
“We may lose a lot of other crops — including corn and cotton — if flooding occurs,” says Blaine. “If that happens, a lot of farmers will likely go with soybeans on that lost acreage. There's another weather system coming in for the next few days. The northern section of the state doesn't need this.”
Mississippi soybeans have been relatively disease free thus far. But with all the water, producers are starting to see stand problems.
“There a couple of things going on. We're seeing some sporadic pest problems, mostly in no-till fields. Grasshoppers are showing up, and spraying has been done. Anyone with no-till fields might want to do some scouting.”
Another problem Mississippi farmers are running into with wet fields is a delay in post-emergence herbicide applications.
“Folks with Roundup Ready beans are sitting prettier in such circumstances. If you get behind, it's problematic because there's unwanted competition, but you can get out of a much deeper hole with a Roundup Ready system,” says Blaine.
Speaking in mid-May, David Lanclos says the best news he's gotten in a while is that it's currently raining over a large part of his state. Lanclos, the Louisiana Extension soybean, corn and grain sorghum specialist, says the latest system wet down two-thirds of the state.
“We've needed rain badly in south central Louisiana and I'm hoping they get soaked. Central to north Louisiana is okay with moisture,” he says.
Lanclos says he read Alan Blaine had recently said Mississippi was 70 percent planted in soybeans. “Joking around this morning, I told somebody, ‘You can knock the zero off Blaine's number and that's probably where we are.’ Actually, we may not even be at 7 percent planted. Mother Nature has played her hand and we simply haven't had the moisture to plant into. There are thousands and thousands of acres ready to go for soybean acreage, but we've had no showers. After these latest rains, our planters will be in the fields planting like crazy.”
The few acres of early Group 4s that have been planted look good. Lanclos has worked with a couple of fields that have some stunting issues — mostly due to drought.
“I worked a field this morning that had soybeans that have already flowered. That's due to drought stress. When the plant was stressed, it started flowering because it was worried the end was approaching, and it hadn't made any seed. We just need a nice, soaking rain to take care of things like that.”
For the most part, Arkansas is extremely wet, says Chris Tingle, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist.
“That's been true over the last 10 days or so. Ditches are completely full, and it's been hard getting water to drain off. We've had mild temperatures and stiff breezes to dry things up some, but with rains hitting most parts of the state every three days or so, it doesn't matter.”
Amazingly, though, there are areas that still need rain. Some of the state's soybean research verification fields were actually planted the afternoon of May 12 because they were dry. Tingle has concerns about those fields, “because some had marginal moisture that, assuming there's no rain on them, may not allow the crop to emerge. Some portions of the states are turning on wells, and that is really strange in light of the continuing rains.”
Planting is certainly a challenge. Tingle estimates anywhere from 25 percent to 30 percent of the state's soybean acres are planted. Of that, anywhere from 15 percent to 18 percent has emerged.
Soybeans planted in early April — especially those on beds — are looking really good, he says.
“Some of our flat-planted beans that were more recently planted are struggling quite a bit. I suspect there will be some replanting going on, but how much I don't have a handle on. We're still within our planting window for a majority of our acreage. There isn't a lot of panic yet. There's still time to get a crop in and make a good yield. Obviously, we may have to look at some later maturing varieties — but those have proven to be our most consistent yielders on the majority of our irrigated acreage.”
Earlier this year, Tingle thought Arkansas would break 3 million acres this year. That's changed. “Last year, we were a little over 2.9 million acres. With the favorable crop and the way the price had been shaping up over the winter, I thought 3 million acres — maybe 3.1 million — was going to happen. But since the Iraq war, the rice price has risen. A lot of ground that was a toss-up between rice and soybeans then shifted back to rice. So I'm going with 2.9 million acres although it may drop a little more than that.”
Arkansas has had some isolated pockets of pests like seed corn maggots showing up but pests haven't been too bad. Diseases may turn out to be a different story.
“With the wet conditions we're experiencing, when the ground is saturated for an extended period, seedling diseases have the stage set. I feel pretty confident we may run into some problems with some of the beans already planted.”
And, like Blaine, Tingle offers this advice: do everything you can to stay on top of weeds.
“These rains and mild temperatures have allowed an early season flush of weeds,” he says. “We need to get into the field with herbicides as quickly as possible. Early season weed control is still the best bet for consistent, good yields.”