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With rust on the mind, mid-South farmers get going on soybean planting

Agriculture.com Staff 05/15/2007 @ 7:39am

Soybean farmers in states south of the Midwest might have a slight jump in terms of planting progress, but not much. They, too, were hampered in April by cold weather that delayed corn planting or forced replanting, and pushed soybeans to the back burner.

At Ridgely, Tennessee, just across the Mississippi River from the Missouri boot heel, David Nichols was hoping for rain on Monday of this week.

"We haven't really had much rain all spring," he says. "The most recent was about a half inch 10 days ago. I've got corn that is about halfway to knee high, and is all rolled up. We started irrigating it over the weekend, putting on about a half-inch to try to get us by until we get a rain. With the price of diesel fuel, you hate to see those irrigation units running this early in the season."

Nichols, the current president of the Tennessee Soybean Association, isn't concerned about his soybeans -- he hasn't planted them, and probably won't until it rains. "I consider May 15 to June 1 prime soybean planting time," he says.

Not many beans have been planted around him, either, partly due to the dryness and partly because farmers have been busy replanting corn that frosted off in April. The weatherman is telling Nichols he has a 70% chance of rain mid-week, and he has his fingers crossed.

"Corn acres have gone up a good bit in our area, but more of those acres are coming from cotton than soybeans," Nichols says. "Still, bean acres will be down around here, including on my farm. I'll have about 25% more corn."

Other than the rainfall issue, Nichols anticipates no surprises this growing season. "Of course, we keep a close watch to the south of us, for signs of soybean rust. So far, it hasn't come this far north. And, the fact is that we already treat a lot of our soybeans with a fungicide at the R3 stage anyway. We have a lot of fungal diseases in this area.

"It depends on the variety, but tests on my farm and university tests show that it pays to spray most varieties of soybeans. Probably 90% of my acres will be sprayed whether we have rust or not," he says.

Across the river at New Madrid, Missouri, Rich Faulkner was planting soybeans on Monday, May 14, as he spoke on his mobile phone. He's 25% to 30% done with the beans. He has one 150-acre bean field that was planted two weeks ago, and they're up and looking fine. "We caught a two-inch rain recently that put some of them under water temporarily, but it's gone now. I don't think there will be any damage," he says.

Faulkner added some ground to his operation this year, and will be up in both corn and soybeans. It looks like the growing season is off to a good start, but it still depends on weather from here on.

"I don't anticipate any special problems based on what we've seen so far," he says. "Rust is in the back of your head, but it's a toss up as to whether it will get in our area or not. We won't know until it happens."

Soybean farmers in states south of the Midwest might have a slight jump in terms of planting progress, but not much. They, too, were hampered in April by cold weather that delayed corn planting or forced replanting, and pushed soybeans to the back burner.

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