The process of planting this year’s soybean crop in Mississippi has been anything but normal.
The only consistent variable has been rain and a lot of it — from an unusually wet winter and spring to the stormwater the state received from Hurricane Barry. Growers have done their best to plant in tight windows of time when both the clouds and the ground were dry. A long, stop-start planting season has been the result.
“If you look at our planting progress as a state, we consistently stayed two to three weeks behind ‘normal’ getting this year’s crop in the ground,” said Trent Irby, a soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “We began planting early and have had to continue to plant on into July to get the acres planted that we have this year, ultimately ending up with a wide range of crop stages.”
As of July 28, 88% of the state’s soybean crop has bloomed, which is right at the five-year average. However, only 63% are setting pods, below the average of 71% for this point in the season.
Growth progress is not the only fluctuation in this year’s soybean crop; its condition is also mixed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture grades 61% of Mississippi’s soybeans as good or excellent, with the remaining 39% at fair or worse.
“Similarly to our other row crops, soybean acres have been off to a rough start this year. But considering everything the crop has gone through, a lot of acres look good compared to what they could have looked like at this point in the year,” Irby said. “The major issue for the growing season up to a couple of weeks ago was just getting a satisfactory plant population when dealing with so many planting challenges.”
State soybean acreage is estimated at 1.95 million planted acres, with 1.92 million acres forecasted for harvest. This amount would be down 270,000 harvested acres from last year. Farmland as a whole has taken a hit from wet weather, but the south Delta has been affected the most, with 200,000 acres under water and out of production for several months because of Mississippi River flooding.
“Those acres impacted by flooding include all of our row crops, but a large percentage of them would likely have been planted to soybean,” Irby said.
The soybean market is holding steady from last year but is significantly lower than 2017 levels. Cash soybeans are trading for about $8.72 per bushel in Greenville and $8.47 per bushel in Indianola. November 2019 soybean futures are trading around $9.05 per bushel.
The number of beans in storage is higher due to the low prices of 2018. Josh Maples, Extension agricultural economist, said there were 47% percent more soybeans stored in the United States this June than in June 2018, a total of 1.8 billion bushels.
“This is a strange year to try to predict harvest time impact on prices due to the large storage from 2018 and the ongoing trade impacts from our tariff situation with China,” Maples said. “Perhaps more important than both of those in the short term is the impact of significant late plantings this year and how that might impact yield. Higher yields than expected could push prices down, but lower yields could push prices up, and it is more uncertain than usual about what yields will end up being due to weather.”
Later-planted soybeans are often subject to additional issues such as insect or disease problems. Producers will be monitoring beans on pace for an early October harvest for bollworms and stinkbugs.
“Stinkbug populations are starting to show up on older beans and have been teetering along below threshold, but nothing major,” said Preston Aust, MSU Extension agent and row crop specialist in Humphreys County. “The biggest thing we’ve seen in the last few weeks is bollworms feeding on plants that are just now blooming. Growers here are making applications to those, and I think that will continue to be a problem until late plantings reach maturity.”
Mississippi State University contributed this report.