Soybean South

 - Southern Specialists -

Overall Yield Drops

By Dr. Chris Tingle, Arkansas

The southeastern part of the state and some portions of southwest Arkansas had excellent production in 2005. Soybean producers were able to plant toward the end of April and had adequate soil moisture to get a good stand. Fairly frequent rainfall in those areas of the state, good soils and overall management of irrigation allowed that crop to really get growing and never look back.

As we move north of the Arkansas River, conditions throughout the season dropped off. Growers in this area were struggling with their rice crops, having to flush fields multiple times to try to get a good stand. When they started planting soybeans from May 10 through the first week in June – one of the driest periods we had this year – they were planting on dry ground.

Although much of that ground is irrigated, this year some growers couldn’t shift water over to their soybean crop because they were having a hard time getting rice to a permanent flood. A lot of our soybeans were watered too little, too late, to reach the optimum yields like we have seen in years past.

The projection for Arkansas is that our soybean yields will be down five to six bushels from last year.

We also saw a big impact from night time temperatures in ‘05. The plants were severely stressed in the early reproductive period. As a result, we are seeing smaller seeds and low test weights.

This year we planted three million acres of soybeans. Because some farmers can’t afford to go back into rice with high diesel and fertilizer prices, we’ll pick up some of those acres next year. At this time, the debate is on how many. We could see as much as a 500,000-acre increase, but that’s early talk.

As far as the soybean rust situation, luckily we have not detected rust in Arkansas. If the latest hurricanes did blow any in, I believe the surviving hosts are already dead.

We had 47 sentinel plots that we monitored in 2005 along with producer fields and kudzu. Our Soybean Rust Working Group is already making preparations for 2006 in regard to planting and monitoring our sentinel plots and further educating consultants and county agents.

We’ll keep our attention on rust, but not become so focused on it that we forget about the other problems that we face each year.

Fungicide Sprays Up

Dennis Delaney, Alabama

Alabama has had between 150,000 and 160,000 acres of soybeans in the last few years. In 2004, that acreage increased to about 210,000 because bean prices were so good. This year we dropped back to about 150,000 acres.

Most of that decrease came in south Alabama where farmers were afraid of rust coming in early on them. I expect we’ll see an increase again in 2006 because of high nitrogen prices for corn and cotton, but particularly for corn. Some of our corn acreage could move over to soybeans.

Although this is our first year with rust, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought. We had about 25 sentinel plots – soybeans and kudzu. On June 28, we found it in Baldwin County in one of the sentinel plots at the research station. In early August, we found it in the Auburn area in another sentinel plot.

In mid-October, we identified rust all the way up in DeKalb County in northeast Alabama on some green leaves and around the edges of fields. The crop was so mature at that time that the rust didn’t affect it.

We plan to continue the sentinel plot program in 2006 and keep encouraging farmers to spray fungicides where needed.

We believe about half of Alabama’s soybean acres got sprayed this year. A lot of that was as a preventative for other diseases, too.

For Alabama, that percentage represents a big increase in soybean fungicide sprays. We’ve probably only sprayed five to 10 percent of the Alabama soybean crop over the last few years.

Here in the South it is so humid and wet that we get a lot of other diseases, so one fungicide spray will pay for itself pretty easily. For rust we might have had to use two. However, we told farmers that if they timed the application right, research showed that they would get their money back from that one spray. A good many of them did do that, particularly in south Alabama.