In July, timely rains across much of Arkansas perked up crops and boosted hopes for decent yields. However, a return to dry conditions has reinvigorated concerns, especially in southwest Arkansas where rains have been elusive. That region is now considered to be in extreme drought.
Across most of the state, however, the soybean crop seems to have turned around, said Chris Tingle, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist on July 22. “We've seen fields we had concerns about a couple of weeks ago that are now looking good. The majority of the crop is entering reproductive stages.
“I'm a little more optimistic about our crop now. We're not sitting on a record yield, but we should be okay. There's a lot invested in this crop, so I hope we can stay on top of it. In trying to maximize yields, irrigation and pest control are the main things we need to pay attention to.”
Current high temperatures concern Tingle. “We're in pollination and seed-fill, so there's some worry. And there wasn't rain everywhere. Some producers are a little nervous about that and feel a need to irrigate. I'm telling them it depends on the method. Coupled with the heat, irrigating could be a problem. You don't want to irrigate in 100-plus degrees. It might be better to hold back a little, wait until next week and see where we are.”
Tingle's assertions are backed by William Johnson, Pioneer field sales agronomist. “Most of the soybeans, especially the early-planted crop, have done a 180. Many of the indeterminates being beaten up by the dry weather have responded to the rains, have bloomed and are setting pods. The Group 4s look like they'll make a decent crop. If it keeps raining, the Group 5s planted in late June/early July should also do fairly well.”
Johnson expects early-production systems will “hit another home run. I think the system is going to pick up steam and more will be planted next year. I wouldn't plant a Group 5 anymore. You get 10 bushels more with a Group 4.”
This could be the state's best corn crop since 2001, said Johnson. “If we'd had any rain in May, it would be another record. The irrigated corn crop this year will out-yield the record crop in 2001. The problem is the dryland acres will drag down the yield average.”
In some areas of the state, worm and stink bug activity have picked up. “We're beginning to treat for stink bugs,” said Tingle. “That's not uncharacteristic for this time of year. Overall, insect pressure has been isolated. Some fields have been treated but not in any statewide manner as in years past.”
Johnson, too, has seen stink bug numbers pick up. “Stink bugs are really showing up in south Arkansas, particularly in beans planted very early. Stink bugs usually go to the most mature soybeans first, but they'll move later. The Group 5s planted in the last couple of weeks are going to have to be watched closely for stink bugs later this season.”
As far as disease pressure, Tingle has dealt mostly with queries on frogeye. “This is usually under pivots in fields planted with susceptible varieties. Some fungicides have gone out targeting frogeye and aerial blight. I'm sure some have gone out for Asian soybean rust too.”
However, Arkansas Extension is “sticking to (its) guns and isn't recommending a rust application now. It just isn't a threat to the Arkansas soybean crop at this time. That could change quickly, of course.”
In Arkansas, scouting and sampling efforts aimed at soybean rust have been stepped up. Many leaves are being pulled, taken to labs and incubated — put in hot, moist conditions that rust favors — to see if rust develops.
“We're checking them under dissecting microscopes, trying to find even the slightest trace of rust,” said Tingle. “As of Friday, July 22, we've not confirmed rust in Arkansas. And where it has been confirmed (in the Southeast), it isn't in areas that threaten us.”
What does Tingle think of the northeast Arkansas soybean crop? “Some of the fields there look better, especially those with good drainage. What we ran into with the early July rains was soil moisture profiles were met and fields began having drainage trouble. I've been walking quite a few fields where we've killed beans in standing water. The hot temperatures scalded them.”
In the area, lower edges of fields are “definitely hurt. I'm getting calls where charcoal rot is being picked up.”
With many offering advice on spraying soybeans for Asian soybean rust, Tingle cautions against a quick trigger. “Producers should stay in touch with their Extension agents. Be certain of your sources. Every day, I hear new rumors from many people who've heard all kinds of things. Be certain your sources are correct. I'm not saying they're inaccurate but get more than one opinion because many suggested treatments are very expensive.”
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