Slow planting for Mid-South’s big soybean crop

Rain delays and wet fields continue to push back planting of north Delta corn, cotton and rice, often at the expense of the region’s most popular commodity crop this season — soybeans.

“We’re behind a lot compared to the last couple of years,” said Trey Koger, Mississippi Extension soybean specialist, who estimated soybean planting in the state at about 40 percent complete by early May. “Usually by this time we would be finished or almost finished.”

A big concern for Mississippi soybean producers is ground under water behind the Mississippi River levee as well as ground in the flood plains of Yazoo and Sunflower rivers. “It’s going to be some time before we get back in those fields. This last rain we had (May 2 and 3) was a hard packing rain and took a heavy toll in the north part of the Delta. We’re going to replant a lot of soybeans if we have seed available.”

Koger says seed distributors have been able to find replant seed for the full-season crop, “but I think we’ll sacrifice quite a few wheat/beans to get our full-season crop planted. I don’t know that we’ll plant as many wheat/beans as we projected.”

Koger noted that soybean planting in Mississippi is also being delayed by slow progress in replanting the state’s corn crop.

Mississippi producers intend to plant a little over 2 million acres to soybeans this season, an increase of 41 percent over last year. The only Mid-South state with a larger year-to-year increase was Louisiana, which increased acres by 50 percent.

According to Arkansas Extension soybean specialist Jeremy Ross, Interstate 40 is the dividing line between good planting progress and slow going. South of the freeway, “everybody has had good luck getting soybeans in. North of 40, there’s been quite a bit more rain. On the heavier clays up in the northeast part of the state, it’s going to be another week before we can even get into the field.”

Soybean that have emerged “are looking pretty good. We’ve gotten some calls on reduced stands of 80,000 to 90,000 plants. Typically, we’d like to see 100,000 plants per acre, but because of the tight supply of soybeans, we may need to live with 80,000 to 90,000 plants this year.

“All we need now is some dry weather to get cranking. A lot of farmers are still trying to get corn, rice and grain sorghum in, and that’s going to push soybeans back a little bit more. But last year, once we got some dry weather, we got about 50 percent of our soybean acres planted in a two-week period.”

Arkansas wheat specialists indicate that the state’s wheat crop is about 10 days behind where it should be in maturity, which will likely have implications for the state’s double-cropped soybeans behind wheat. About one-third of Arkansas’ forecast 3.2 million acre soybean crop is double-cropped.

“That means a third of our soybean crop is going to be delayed. Right now, we’re sitting close to a million acres of wheat in Arkansas. We’re a little concerned about double-cropped soybeans because of late-season insect problems we’ve had the last several years. There are also the late-season diseases such as Asian soybean rust. The late crop is the one that’s going to be most vulnerable to late-season diseases.

“The good thing is that we have our sentinel plots out. We are starting to scout those, and we have a good network to let everybody know where the rust is and who needs to treat. Plus we have good fungicides.”

Angela Thompson, Tennessee corn and soybean specialist, says many west Tennessee farmers are trying finish up corn and cotton planting. “Some of the wet bottoms where farmers want to plant corn are still sitting there.”

The delays mean “we’ll have more May-planted beans and fewer April beans than we’ve had in the last few years.”

Growers are willing to push soybean planting back because of the mindset that there is a little more flexibility in the planting window, noted Thompson. “Corn has to go in early, but we can wait until May on soybeans and still do well. But for mid- or late-Group 4 and early-Group 5s planted later in May, you hope you get some showers in July and August to pull the crop through.”

While growers may be anxious to plant beans, “we remind them to let the ground dry as much as practical. Seed companies in Tennessee can sell seed with a germination of as low as 75 percent. So consider using a good, broad spectrum fungicide to protect the plant early on.”

According to USDA’s March 31 Prospective Plantings Report, producers in the Mid-South states of Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas intend to plant over 7 million acres of soybeans this spring, an increase of 28 percent over last year.

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