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Rains cause damage, yield losses to state soybean crop
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Harvest season rains have robbed soybean growers of strong yields and bean quality, reducing profits in an already challenging year.
“We were harvesting a beautiful crop with outstanding yields before the rains came the last two weeks of September,” said Trey Koger, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Now that farmers are finally back in fields, we are seeing average yield losses of 5 percent to 10 percent.”
In addition to the yield losses, damage estimates average between 5 percent and 20 percent.
“The amount of damage the crop received is extremely variable,” Koger said. “We’re seeing damage from 2 percent to 80 percent. You couple these numbers with the yield losses, and farmers are not seeing as good a harvest as they anticipated just a few weeks ago.”
For two weeks, the crop stayed at 26 percent harvested, but it climbed to about 35 percent after three days back in the field. Soybean harvest is typically 80 percent complete by early October.
“We should make a lot of strides if we get 10 to 14 days of good weather. Farmers are working really hard to get caught up,” Koger said.
About a quarter of this year’s crop was planted late, either because it was replanted or planted after wheat or floodwaters. Koger said these late-planted acres still look fine.
The same cannot be said of acreage that has harvest-ready soybeans standing in the fields. Rains have caused pod splitting, and many soybeans are sprouting in the pods.
“The seeds in these pods are often rotted or sprouted by the time the field is harvested,” Koger said. “They will blow out the back of the combine if they are shriveled extensively or have lost a lot of their weight, or they will go into the grain tank and contribute to reduced seed quality.”
Despite the variability in losses, Koger said damage to the state’s overall crop is not as severe as many thought it would be after the prolonged rain.
“The irrigated soybeans that looked good going into this rain weathered it surprisingly well,” Koger said. “Nonirrigated beans as a whole have taken it worse. As a result of the varying degrees of stress a nonirrigated crop goes through, seed damage and subsequent quality losses on nonirrigated acres are typically worse than on irrigated acres.”
Rainy weather is not the only thing attacking the state’s soybean crop. Jeff Gore, a Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station research entomologist, said a new, smaller but more aggressive feeding species of stinkbugs has moved into the state.
“The red-banded stinkbug is slowly creeping its way up our state from Louisiana,” Gore said. “We had them in low levels last year and had to treat a couple of fields for these stinkbugs, but they are a lot more widespread this year on the later-planted soybeans.”
Gore said producers have sprayed a significant number of acres for the red-banded stinkbugs. Existing insecticides are effective, but they break down in six to 11 days and the bugs re-infest quickly.
“Either you spray for these stinkbugs or you’re not going to harvest beans,” Gore said. “Since you have to spray more frequently and at a little higher rate, you have to make a management assessment according to how the beans are looking when the stinkbugs move in.”
Gore said several MSU and U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service scientists have been working on the problem since the insects became an issue in Louisiana.
“I’m afraid this one has the potential to be a lot more of a problem than rust,” Gore said. “They appear to be well-established through most areas of Mississippi now, and it’s likely to be an annual problem that will get worse before it gets better.”
Soybean prices at the first of October were about $9.25 a bushel, down from the near $11 that November futures had traded for in mid-May.
“Prices remain pretty high when compared to historic averages,” said John Anderson, Extension agricultural economist. “The current price for beans is about the same as it was a year ago and much higher than the five-year average price for this time of year, which is a little under $7 a bushel.”
The market is anticipating a large harvest, but demand for soybeans remains strong, holding prices stable, Anderson said. USDA projects an average yield of 41 bushels an acre for the state.
“At current prices, this should allow most producers to cover operating costs,” Anderson said. “It may be difficult to cover all of the farm’s overhead given the current high cost of production, and all costs have to be covered for the farm business to be sustainable.”