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Soybeans are off to earliest start ever
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi farmers have the rest of the season to wait and see if the state's earliest soybean planting ever will pay off in a good crop this year.
Ideal spring planting conditions enabled state farmers to get about 85 percent of the crop in the ground by the middle of May, a pace that was 30 percent ahead of normal. Much of what remains to be planted will go onto fields that are double-cropped with wheat or are waiting on much-needed moisture.
Alan Blaine, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the state's acreage is down 200,000 acres from last year for a total of 1.5 million acres.
"This is the first time in probably over 30 years that the cotton and soybean acreage are at the same level," Blaine said.
Poor prices caused this recent Mississippi trend to reduced acreage, but soybean acreage nationwide increased. Cotton is picking up a lot of the acreage, but so are corn and rice.
"We had a good spring when it finally dried up and allowed us to get in and plant," Blaine said. "May has been extremely dry and a lot of plants are short and already blooming. We usually see blooming around June 1, but they're blooming now either because they were stressed by dry weather early or they've been emerged for a good while."
The recent trend to plant the state's soybean crop early is an attempt for the crop to reach peak water demand when there's better soil moisture and a greater chance of rainfall.
"With this crop being early, we should be in our most demanding time by the first of June instead of the middle of June to early July," Blaine said.
Scattered showers in mid-May helped some areas, but farmers had to irrigate other fields by late May. Blaine said many will need irrigation by early June unless rains continue to come in a timely manner across the state.
"We must remember this is an early crop, so it is ahead of schedule," Blaine said. "As a whole, we're in excellent shape compared to years past, but we've got a long way to go."
Don Respess, Bolivar County Extension agent, said his county planted just 175,000 acres of soybeans this year, down from about 218,000 last year.
"Prices for soybeans are low and farmers are thinking that if they're going to have to irrigate, they might as well put in rice," Respess said.
Bolivar County farmers planted early, trying to avoid problems from normal late summer dry weather.
"We're trying to reduce irrigation if we can because of cost, but many of the fields are dryland fields without irrigation," Respess said. "We want this crop to make early so we are not as dependent on late summer rainfall."
Blaine said the main problems soybean farmers have encountered this year have been in no-till fields. Farmers have seen numerous grubs and some worms, but the biggest problem has been grasshoppers. Spraying has been very effective, but the grasshopper problem surfaced much earlier than usual this year.
"With the large planting of Roundup Ready soybeans, growers have the tendency to spray their turn rows and ditches," Blaine said. "Don't spray these areas with Roundup because you are removing a cover and food source, and could force grasshoppers to move into adjacent fields."