When skies are clear, Arkansas soybean planting sprints to the finish

• By Ryan McGeeney •

planting
Photo courtesy United Soybean Board

When asked how soybean planting in his county had been going over the past week or two, Robert Goodson, agriculture agent for the Phillips County Cooperative Extension Service office, paused.

“What do you see in your mind when you hear the phrase ‘running around like a chicken with its head cut off’?”

Busy, in other words.

“We managed to get a lot done in two weeks,” Goodson said. “We’ve got roughly 220,000 acres of soybeans supposed to be planted in this county. We probably got about 120,000 of them planted just now.”

Like most producers in the state, the soybean growers of Phillips County have found themselves at the mercy of intermittent rainfall throughout most of the past two years, with dry spells few and far between, whether it be time to plant, grow or harvest. Recently, overall soybean planting progress in Arkansas has begun catching up to the five-year average, leaping from 34% of 2.9 million planned acres as of May 10 to 47% as of May 17.

Jeremy Ross, Extension soybean agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said growers are now in a race to put as much of their soybean crop in the ground as possible before they start seeing a significant drop in yield potential.

“By June 1, you’re starting to lose yield potential,” he said. “By the time you’re at June 15, you’ve already lost 20% to 25% of your optimal yield.”

And in the current market, every bushel counts. At current prices, which are in the range of about $8.70-$8.80 per bushel, growers need to cut 45 bushels per acre, Goodson said.

“Our county average yield is about 50-51 bushels overall,” Goodson said. “Dry land yield is around 39 bushels, and irrigated acres are around 60-65 bushels per acre.

“It’s hard to make a living at that price unless you’re harvesting better than 60 bushels an acre,” he said.

If growers continue to enjoy dry patches of weather, soybeans may claim acres well beyond those originally planned across the state, as much of Arkansas’ planned corn crop was prevented this year. In Phillips County, for example, growers had planned to plant about 50,000 acres of corn.

“I’d be surprised if we had 20,000 acres in the ground this time,” Goodson said.

Ryan McGeeney is a University of Arkansas communications specialist. He may be reached at rmcgeeney@uaex.edu.

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