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Soybeans Suffer Crucial Setbacks
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's soybean crop is playing out an agricultural version of the good, the bad and the ugly.
"Having gotten off to such a good start, it's disappointing to see what we have now in the state," said Dr. Alan Blaine, extension soybean specialist at Mississippi State University.
Growers who were able to plant around spring rains felt fortunate to have one of the state's earliest crops planted, until June weather turned out hotter and drier than normal. As conditions began taking their toll on early varieties, growers who were able to irrigate began 30 to 45 days earlier than in past years.
"We have some areas that haven't gotten even a trace of rain since May. Many parts of the state are just getting personal rains, and those fields are looking pretty good," Blaine said.
The agronomist said the driest areas are in the central and north Delta regions.
Two additional problems facing the state's soybeans are Phytophthora, a devastating disease being found on irrigated fields, and the potato leaf hopper, which is a new pest on Mississippi soybeans.
Dr. Joe Fox, extension plant pathologist in Decatur, said the outbreak of Phytophthora is the most severe in recent history. While the disease can attack a plant at any stage of development, late-season occurrences are especially damaging.
"Soybeans are noted for their ability to compensate for stand losses. Since soybean farmers plant thickly, early season losses of up to 25 percent may not be noticed at harvest time," Fox said. "The outbreak at this stage of the crop development could reduce yields significantly in infected fields."
Fox said control efforts are made before planting by variety choices and can be minimized by careful watering practices.
Researchers are especially interested in outbreaks of Phytophthora on varieties that have withstood the disease in past variety testing.
"We could be seeing a new race of the disease this year," Fox said.
Blaine said potato leaf hoppers mainly are being found on irrigated fields. While they may not significantly hurt yields, control is essential in fields where high numbers are found.
Blaine is encouraging growers to apply fungicides to control foliar diseases and water soybeans if they have irrigation capabilities.