Soybeans need moisture to finish season strong

By Keri Collins Lewis MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE ­ Recent rains and irrigation have helped portions of Mississippi¹s soybeans recover from June¹s dry spell, but more moisture is needed to complete the season.

³We are thankful for the rain that we¹ve received this growing season, and we all know it is a blessing,² said Trent Irby, Mississippi State University Extension Service soybean specialist. ³But we still have several weeks to go in many areas, and additional moisture certainly will be needed to finish making the crop.²

Irby said the state¹s soybean crop looks good.

³Our earliest planted soybeans are in the late reproductive stage with a few areas beginning to change color,² he said. ³The later-planted portion of the crop, as well as the double-crop acres, are close to or have already reached the bloom phase. Sufficient moisture is needed during these reproductive stages to help the crop load up and fill pods.²

Planting began in late March this year and continued through early July. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports Mississippi has 2.13 million soybean acres this year.

³Many of the state¹s producers practice an early planting system where earlier maturing varieties are planted to assist with managing for late-season pest pressure and drought stress. This system also allows producers to harvest earlier in the fall.² At this point in the season, the earlier soybeans have the advantage.

³Things were relatively uneventful up until mid-July,² Irby said. ³Much of the earlier portion of the crop will likely finish the season without too much pressure from disease or insects, but our later-planted soybean crop, particularly the double-crop portion, will need to be monitored closely so that timely insect and disease management practices can be applied to minimize any negative effects on yield.²

A new invasive pest was recently added to the list of insects Mississippi soybean growers must watch for — the kudzu bug. In mid-July, the small Asian beetle was discovered in Warren and Montgomery counties. MSU Extension row crop entomologist Angus Catchot said entomologists and growers in neighboring states have experience fighting the insect.

³Entomologists in the Southeast have been working with this pest for several years, and they say we can control the pest fairly easily with the currently registered insecticides already used in soybeans,² Catchot said. ³It¹s not in Mississippi¹s soybeans yet. It may take one to three years, but we expect to see it in soybeans in the near future. I think we¹ll be able to manage this pest when it hits.²

Catchot said kudzu bugs are probably in other areas of the state.

³We¹re going to start doing extensive surveys soon. Mississippi producers have consultants who look at nearly every acre of soybeans, so I do not think it will catch us by surprise,² he said. ³Once we learn more, I¹m confident the Extension Service will provide education to growers on when to treat and what to treat with.²

Extension plant pathologist and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station scientist Tom Allen said he is seeing increasing evidence of foliar diseases in soybeans.

³Frogeye leaf spot is one of the hottest topics in soybeans right now,² Allen said. ³I¹m seeing a lot more of it this year. In the past three years, I¹ve sent a total of five samples to a lab for fungicide resistance analysis, and this year I¹ve already sent five samples with several more to send. So far, the strain of the fungus that is resistant to a certain class of fungicides hasn¹t been found in Mississippi.²

This year has also been unique in that the earliest case of soybean rust in the state was discovered July 13.

³That is a rarity, and I was shocked,² Allen said. ³Cooler temperatures with relatively high humidity and scattered showers are optimum for soybean rust development.²

In spite of these challenges, producers have reason to be optimistic.

³We account for about 2 to 3 percent of the national production,² said Extension agricultural economist John Michael Riley. ³Although dryness in early June could have reduced the crop¹s overall potential, Mississippi¹s crop will still likely fare better than those in the Midwest.²

Riley said the Midwestern drought continues to take center stage.

³Last week soybean futures contracts reached record highs — the September contract peaked at $17.30/bushel on July 20,² Riley said. ³But the prospect of rain has brought down those prices about $1/bushel over the past few days.²

Nationally, 35 percent of the crop is rated ³poor² and ³very poor,² Riley said, while 31 percent is rated ³excellent² and ³good.² In Mississippi, 7 percent is rated ³poor² and ³very poor,² while 71 percent is rated ³excellent² and ³good.²

³National yields are in jeopardy, as are the number of acres that producers might simply walk away from, thus dropping the total number of acres harvested. All of this combined is why soybean prices have soared since mid-June,² Riley said.

Current prices at Mississippi elevators are just over $16/bushel for the crop that is currently in the ground. Soybeans ranked third on Mississippi¹s roster of commodities in 2011, with an $860 million production value.

For more information on Mississippi¹s crops, visit or