Mississippi: weather soaks soybeans

Mississippi’s soybean crop is getting some “R and R,” but rather than producers having an easy time, their crop is battling seed rot and soybean rust.

Trey Koger, Mississippi State University soybean specialist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said about 5 percent of the state’s soybean crop was harvested by mid-September. In an average year, the crop would be about 30 percent harvested by that point.

“Harvest is later than normal because of all the wet weather we’ve had in recent weeks,” Koger said. “Also, soybeans were planted later than normal this year, and farmers are still trying to get corn out of the field before they harvest soybeans.”

As a result, mature soybeans are in wet fields waiting for harvest.

“We’re at the growth stage with much of the crop where rain will not benefit it. We want it to dry out so we can get the crop harvested,” Koger said.

Seed rot is a big problem in many fields, with the worst damage probably occurring in the western part of the Delta, Koger said. Seed rot deteriorates the soybean’s quality, and the price producers receive is reduced based on the severity of the damage.

Koger said soybean rust has been identified in Sharkey, Issaquena, Warren, Humphreys, Holmes, Washington, Yazoo and George counties. With the exception of Sharkey County, where one entire field has rust, the infections range from extremely light to light, with just one or two infected leaves found in an entire county.

“Fortunately, about 75 percent of the crop is past the growth stage where it is vulnerable to rust,” Koger said. “Since rust poses no threat to these fields, we are not recommending anyone spray fungicides solely for the control of rust at this point.”

Tom Allen, Extension pathologist, is heavily involved in monitoring the presence of soybean rust in Mississippi.

“It takes at least two to four or more weeks of perfect environmental conditions for the fungus to build up inoculum and infect a lot of plants in a single location,” Allen said. “But in two weeks, the vast majority of our crop, except for a few locations in the southern part of the state, along the river and north of Clarksdale, will be out of the woods. This is the No. 1 reason we are being very conservative with our treatment recommendations.”

State producers planted 2.25 million acres of soybeans in 2008, up 40 percent from the acreage planted last year. Koger compared this year’s weather at harvest to weather in 2001.

“We were sitting on a pretty good crop in August, especially on our irrigated acres. This weather caused a lot of damage, so when it all averages out, we’ll probably have just a fair crop,” he said. “There will be some really good beans and some awful beans.”

John Coccaro, Warren County Extension director, said seed rot is a big problem with much of his county’s soybeans, but area farmers have a large, late-planted crop that recent rains have helped. When the Mississippi River flooded this spring, some of Warren County’s best acreage was under water. It was July by the time fields dried out and some producers could plant soybeans.

“Normally planting that late is a toss of the dice. You think they’ll not make a good yield because of hot, dry weather, but with prices high this year, many farmers were willing to gamble,” Coccaro said. “Now with the rains we’ve had, those farmers are just smiling because the late-planted soybeans have an ideal situation right now.”

This late-planted crop is susceptible to rust problems, and Coccaro said many fields have problems with soybean loopers and other leaf-feeding caterpillars.

“It may end up being a wiser choice for farmers who have a few dollars left in their budgets to focus on spraying for the leaf-feeding insects if they have these in high-enough numbers,” he said.

John Anderson, Extension agricultural economist, said the November soybean futures contract is currently trading a little more than $12 per bushel.

“This is down from over $16 at the contract’s high point in early July,” Anderson said. “Mississippi cash prices for soybeans are around $11, and soybean market supply and demand fundamentals remain strong.”

He said most of the pressure on prices recently has reflected a general decline in agricultural commodity markets as oil prices have eased lower and the dollar gained strength.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture projections continue to show a fairly tight supply situation for soybeans that should provide a generally supportive environment for soybean prices during the coming marketing year,” Anderson said.

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