Reduced acreage, shaky start challenged Mississippi soybeans

Mississippi soybean harvest
Despite facing extreme environmental challenges during the 2019 growing season, Mississippi soybean fields are expected to yield a state average of about 50 bushels an acre. These soybeans were being harvested Oct. 10, 2019, on Phillip Good’s Noxubee County farm — photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson

Producers are tracing the mixed results they see from the 2019 Mississippi soybean harvest back to early struggles getting the crop started.

Trent Irby, Mississippi State University Extension Service soybean specialist, said there were extreme environmental challenges for all crops this year. Wet weather and flooding delayed planting in many areas, forced replanting of many soybean acres and put the crop behind schedule.

“There’s a large window in which you can successfully plant soybeans and they’ll have sufficient time to develop and mature,” Irby said. “However, it’s well documented that, as the planting date delays beyond late April, which is the prime planting time, yield potential declines.”

Mississippi soybean fields are estimated to yield 51 bushels an acre in 2019. This yield is below the record-setting pace set over the past two years. The state hit an average high of 54.5 bushels per acre in 2018.

Irby said very few soybean acres looked good early in the season.

“The earliest planted acres went through the worst conditions,” Irby said. “There was major river flooding in the south Delta, and in many other places, fields were repeatedly flooded by heavy rains and had to be replanted.”

Even with the early season challenges, timely rains and mostly ideal weather in July allowed the crop to make up some lost ground.

“As harvest nears completion, it is evident that the hot, dry conditions the crop experienced late in the season impacted yield,” Irby said. “There were no significant challenges this year from insects or disease pressure.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the state’s soybean crop was 75% harvested by Oct. 13, a pace on track with recent harvest rates.

Overall value is down

Although the resilient crop has produced average yields similar to those of recent years, soybean’s value to the state will be down significantly this year because of tremendously reduced acreage.

Mississippi growers will harvest an estimated 1.6 million acres, down about 26% from the 2.2 million acres harvested in 2018. This year was the first time that state growers planted fewer than 2 million acres since 2012, when they planted 1.9 million acres.

Although flooding kept some acres out of soybean production, Will Maples, Extension agricultural economist, said reduced acreage is also a symptom of market prices this spring when planting decisions were being made.

“Market prices were more favorable for corn and cotton rather than soybeans at that time,” Maples said.

Ongoing trade disputes have driven soybean prices this year, and the direction has mostly been downward.

“Cash bids for soybeans are around $9 per bushel,” Maples said. “This is better than where we were this time last year when prices were around $7.60. We have seen some rebound in the soybean market this fall.”

Mississippi State University contributed this article.

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