Dicamba drift may have gotten a heaping dose of attention this growing season, but harvest season is where the truth hits the combine. So, what’s happening with soybeans around the Mid-South?
In Louisiana, “we’re probably 75 to 80 percent finished with harvest,” says Todd Spivey, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist. “With the exception of very late-planted soybeans or Group 5s that are scattered across the state, we’ll probably be done harvesting (by mid-October).”
With Harvey sweeping through the state a few weeks ago, harvest began slowly. “After the storms, we had a lot of soybeans taken to the elevator with damage. Some of that was obviously weather-related but red-banded stinkbugs also contributed. A lot of growers carried soybeans to the elevator anywhere from 15, 20 to 30 percent damaged.”
The farther from the area hit Harvey, “the more the damage to our crop dropped. At this point, most growers are averaging less than 2 to 2.5 percent damage at the elevator.
“Here’s the thing: even with the damage, yields never really fell off. In the south-central part of the state, many were cutting 50 to 60 bushels per acre. In the northeast, growers were — and still are — cutting 70 to 80 bushels per acre.”
Louisiana test weights were a bit low, says Spivey. “That, I believe, coincides with some sprouting some fields experienced after the storm. There were also some disease issues, but based on everything we’ve experienced this year, this crop is still strong.”
Asked about dicamba-tolerant soybeans in Louisiana, Spivey doesn’t “have a good handle on acreage, but Xtend soybeans were pretty popular. We had growers plant them partly to protect themselves in case others sprayed. But it turned out of the Xtend beans planted many weren’t sprayed with dicamba.
“There should be a real market for the (dicamba-tolerant) technology in Louisiana with soybeans being grown near sugarcane. Cane growers use dicamba-based products on their crops and Xtend beans could be a safety net for them in adjacent fields.
“Yield-wise, the Xtend beans have done well and I haven’t heard any complaints.”
What about early yields news trickling in?
“It’s very early, but as of (the week of Sept. 18) we were about a quarter done with harvest,” says Jeremy Ross, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist. “I imagine we’ve gained another 10 or 15 percent since then. The weather has been very good for harvest and soybeans are drying down at a rapid rate. Guys are wrapping up corn and rice harvest and moving right into their soybeans. That’s especially true in south Arkansas.
“I’m hearing really good yields, so far. I’ve verified four 100-bushel yields in the Grow for the Green contest: two around McGehee, one is in Arkansas County and another is in Prairie County.”
As for comparing the different technologies, “it’s hard to make any firm statements,” says Ross. But with the growing season we’ve had, anything that wasn’t damaged by off-target movement — especially in northeast Arkansas — will produce really good yields.
“I did get the first report of a severely (drift-) damaged field. It yielded 11 bushels. But that field had multiple exposures to dicamba. That particular farmer said in the past he’s averaged 70 bushels-plus on that field for the last couple of years.
“So, there definitely will be some areas where we see some significant damage. Other fields may have been exposed early in the season, grew out of it, and don’t show a yield lag.”
When researchers are trying to figure out different technologies’ merits, is it better to do studies in excellent growing conditions or adverse?
“Both scenarios give you very good information,” says Ross. “A lot of the Xtend varieties we evaluated in 2016. Last year was pretty adverse with late-season rains, rather high disease pressure. If you look at the yields for all the varieties in 2016, we were probably off 10 to 15 percent. Some of the varieties we’d looked at for multiple years showed reduced yields in 2016 because of the environmental stresses.”
In 2017, “we had almost an ideal growing season. There were a couple of rainy periods, the hurricane rains came through and hurt some of our soybean quality. But, I’d bet the yield results will be quite a bit better in 2017 than in 2016.”
Soybean harvest has been up and down in Mississippi, says Trent Irby, Mississippi Extension soybean specialist. “We’re now making some good headway since it has turned pretty dry. A lot of acres are being combined, right now — during the last week we were probably around 60 to 65 percent done.
“We’re well above that percentage now. I’m driving through the north Delta now and combines have already been running for two hours after the wind blew all night. Being so dry, the machines are able to move quickly.”
The yields have been “all over the map. We have some excellent yields. Unfortunately, some of the earlier soybeans we harvested were damaged. That was the result of environmental conditions we had earlier in the harvest with rains shutting things down. Rains would come through and that meant harvesting for a day and then being shut down. It stayed cloudy and wet for a while and didn’t do the acres that were ready to be harvested any favors.”
USDA has Mississippi projected at 52 bushels per acre, which would tie the state yield record. “It’s still too early to say anything for sure, but that’s probably within a bushel or two on either side of that. The kicker will be what the overall damage was in areas of the state having trouble getting their crops to the elevator. The yield is probably in the field — but the final yield report will be off from that potential because of the damage.”
Is Irby seeing any differences between Xtend soybeans and others?
“We don’t have any real comparisons yet. From the harvested beans, regardless of varieties, I’m seeing a lot of good crops. I don’t really have a sense yet of separating them out.
“I will say that the main concern on everyone’s mind after harvest is booking soybean seed for next year. Everyone is staying tuned for the variety trials and various reports so they can make good decisions on choices for 2018.”
Corn has been harvested through much of Missouri, says Bill Wiebold, Missouri Extension soybean researcher. “Reports are yields are good and, in our variety trials in the Bootheel, we have some site averages well over 250 bushels per acre — some approaching 300 bushels. So, there are some very good corn yields in the state.
“The corn crop was fairly mature and dried down before the late-season weather issues came through.”
There haven’t been a lot of soybeans harvested in the state yet. “I think the yields will be very good, though.
“The cooler weather in August really helped to push pods. We probably would be a few bushels better if there had been more rain in August and September. The 90 degree temperatures we had in September aggravated the lack of water — we may have lost a bushel or two due to late weather. There has also been some Sudden Death Syndrome around the state.”
Missouri growers didn’t see much insect pressure this growing season.
“As for diseases, we had the SDS I mentioned. SDS seems to come and go and this year was the worst for the disease for the last seven or eight years. Again, that’s related to weather conditions — we had wet conditions when some plants were seedlings.”
What about Xtend crops?
“We haven’t harvested any Xtend soybeans yet. As everyone knows, Missouri and other Mid-South states have been in the news due (to dicamba drift). But I just don’t have a way to know, right now, how great the damage was or how the Xtend soybeans have yielded.”