By Bonnie Coblentz
Soybeans remained Mississippi’s most valuable row crop in 2010, bringing an estimated $821 million to producers, a 16 percent increase over the previous year. The increase came despite a somewhat late start and a very hot, dry summer. The Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service estimates 1.95 million acres of soybeans were harvested, yielding a state average of 39 bushels per acre. The average market year price is estimated to be $11.45 a bushel.
John Michael Riley, an agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension service, said the estimated price for 2010 is higher than the prices of recent years. He added that soybean prices should remain strong in 2011, as soybean stocks are low.
Northeast Mississippi faced challenges
While the estimated state average yield was up one bushel from 2009, the success of the state’s soybean crop varied widely by region. While statewide, those with irrigation fared much better than those without it, the northeast part of the state had an especially tough time.
Charlie Stokes, Extension area agronomic agent in Monroe County, said that Lee County marked the dividing line between successful and unsuccessful soybean fields.
“The northern part did pretty well and had a decent yield of 30-35 bushels per acre on average,” Stokes says. “A lot of fields in the southern part had yields of 20-25 bushels per acre, and some were even in the teens. The farther south you were, the drier it was this summer.”
The northern part of the state had a poor start with heavy spring rains, forcing growers to replant many acres. Once established, fields had more timely rains than those planted farther south.
Irrigation pays off
Jerry Singleton, Extension area agronomic agent in Leflore County, said about half the soybean acres in his area are irrigated. These acres had excellent yields if they were planted on time or early. Those without irrigation had poor yields.
“The heat did not seem to affect our yields that much unless we really planted late and had stand establishment problems,” Singleton says. “Beans planted after wheat in 2010 just never came to a decent stand because of the dry weather.”
Singleton said the central and south Delta area typically averages about 37 bushels per acre. He estimated irrigated fields in this region saw yields averaging as high as 49 bushels per acre, with the more northern areas doing even better.
“Managing the drought was the specific challenge,” Singleton says. “If you didn’t have irrigation, you didn’t have any way to manage it.”
‘Amazing’ crop in central Mississippi
Ernie Flint, Extension area agronomic agent in Attala County, described the 2010 soybean crop in the central part of the state as amazing.
“Our yields were exceptional,” Flint says. “It was rare to see anybody making yields below 30 bushels per acre, and at one time, our state average was about 24 bushels per acre.”
Yields ranged from as low as about 35 bushels per acre to as high as 60 bushels per acre. Flint said only a few acres of soybeans in the hills are irrigated, but about 75 percent of these acres got rain when needed.
“In the hills, if the farmers got timely rains, they were competitive with the irrigated acres in the Delta,” he says.
Bonnie Coblentz is with MSU Ag Communications at Mississippi State University.