Many Arkansas farmers have seen a rough start to the soybean-growing season. “The lateness of the soybean crop depends on what part of the state you’re in,” says Jeremy Ross, Arkansas soybean agronomist. “The southern part of Arkansas isn’t terribly late or bad off. The producers there were able to get their crops planted in more of a timely manner. There are some good-looking beans from Jefferson County south.”
That isn’t true in the remainder of the state, unfortunately.
“We’re behind – sometimes way behind – in some fields. The Arkansas River Valley has flooded fields and caused problems for planting. The same is true in the southwest corner of the state around the Red River.”
The most recent USDA report says the state is close to the five-year planting average. However, Ross warns that is a bit deceptive. “A lot of that acreage has just been planted in the last couple of weeks. In other words, there are two crops in the state: areas south of I-40 are moving along fairly well, and then there’s everywhere else where the beans are small, just emerged or yet to be planted.
“It’s been tough. My experience with planting plots is an illustration of what’s happened this season. The first week of May, we finally had a chance to get some plots planted. In Newport, the plots look okay although they are a bit stunted because of the wet, cool conditions we’ve had. We finished up in Newport (the week of June 8).
“But plots at the Pine Tree Station (just west of Colt, Ark.) had to be redone because of deer damage and wet weather. We pretty much had to abandon the plots there until today, when we finished planting.”
Buckle up for a long year, says Ross. “Delayed planting, of course, means the harvest will be pushed back.
“As far as weed control, everything appears to remain fairly clean. Everyone is putting residuals into their programs and that’s certainly helping. I haven’t seen any total disasters yet. I’m sure there are cases of that, but that’s not unexpected.
“We were expecting these rains to back off eventually and they have. I planted in Stuttgart yesterday and it was dry several inches deep. That’s allowed a lot of producers to plant in the last several days and for residual herbicide application.”
Now, it appears the state is set for another set of rains generated from Tropical Storm Bill. “The western side of the state will get hit. We don’t need 2 or 3 inches but if we can get a gradual 1-inch rain, many producers will appreciate it. They’ve got residuals that need activation or they need some moisture to get the soybeans to germinate.”
Since it’s going to be a late year, soybeans are going to be especially susceptible to insects and diseases. “Producers need to get in their fields and scout hard — especially as the crop reaches reproduction. Keep a close eye on everything.
“(Arkansas Extension entomologist) Gus Lorenz says he’s already picking up a number of stink bugs in soybeans. In most fields, there’s not much for them to feed on — there’s no pods and most acreage is still in vegetative stage. We’re hoping the stink bug numbers will cycle out. But early on, it’s shaping up to be a ‘buggy’ year.”
As far as disease, “we’ve seen quite a bit of seedling disease. That’s because of the cool, wet conditions, obviously. We’re still a few weeks away from really having to worry about disease. But, again, these late-planted beans are prone to problems and late-season yield loss.”
What about replanting?
“A couple of weeks ago, I walked some fields in south Arkansas that were shaky. I told the producers to keep some of them. They were far enough along and the stands were strong enough that the plants will grow out of it. Others were less than ideal and those fields needed to be replanted. I’m sure there are other fields being replanted, as well. But it isn’t anything out of the ordinary.
“That is, unless you’re in the Arkansas River Valley — that’s a whole different situation. There are producers there who planted and, with the flooding, are going to be forced to replant. And that’s if they can even get in their fields in time. It’s up in the air what some of them will do.”
It is only just now that the river has dropped enough for them to consider their options. “And here comes another rain event that will push them even later. The forecast is that the river won’t rise to the levels it was in early June, but any more water is going to make a bad situation worse.
“I hope the rest of the season is smoother than what’s come so far. We’ve gone from too wet two weeks ago to everyone pulling polypipe and starting irrigation. It’s typical Arkansas, I guess: too much water to not enough in the blink of an eye, it seems.”