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It's wet, it's cold, but soybean planters rolling this week

While April saw near perfect planting conditions for corn, May is trying to make up for it in the other direction as farmers dodge rain showers and bundle up in insulated clothes to plant soybeans.

Despite the cool, wet conditions, the latest USDA planting progress statistics say that as of May 15, about 33% of intended soybeans are in the ground. That's up from 18% a week ago, and just slightly under the five-year average. In the Midwest, soybean planting progress varies from 12% in Kansas, to 31% in Illinois, to 41% in Iowa, to 68% in Ohio.

Several members of Agriculture Online's High Yield Team surveyed early this week were chomping at the bit to get their soybean planters rolling again. Mike Finck, who farms in the far southeast corner of Nebraska at Falls City, was hoping to start planting soybeans on Monday this week if the rain holds off. "Most guys in this area are done with corn, and starting on soybeans. Maybe 10-15% of the soybeans are planted here. It's been very cool and was wet earlier, and that's delayed a lot of people. Here at our place, we've done some terracing on corn ground this spring, and by the time we got through with the tiling and dozer work, it set us back a week or so."

Finck says the thing he's most worried about is insect pressure this year. With such a mild winter, many of the bugs may have survived. "I'll be watching carefully as the beans come up. Otherwise, we're off to a good start I would say. We're all no-till, and have 750 acres of soybeans to plant."

North of there, at Cook, Nebraska, Lyle Fisher has been back in the field since last Thursday, and has about two-thirds of his beans planted, with 100 acres to go. Soil temperature where he planted this weekend was 55 degrees. "I've planted soybeans when it's this cool before, and never had any problems," he says.
Fisher grows both dryland and irrigated soybeans. "I'm happy with the dryland yields, they've been about 50 bushels an acre," he says. It's the irrigated acres he's unhappy with. They yield about 60 bushels, but those same fields will produce over 200 bushels of corn. "I think the irrigated beans should do at least 65 or better. I've had an agronomist working with me on this, and we still haven't been able to figure it out. That's my biggest soybean challenge."

Over in northeast Iowa, near Buckingham, High Yield Team member Mark Nechanicky says he's been out of the fields for over a week now due to wet conditions. "The corn is all in, and looking good. I'm just waiting for it to dry up and I'll be planting soybeans. We need heat. I have about 250 acres to plant."

Nechanicky is concerned about soybean aphids this year. "We've tended to have them in alternating years, and this is the year for them," he says. "I haven't sprayed for them in the past, and I probably should have. I'll be watching closely this year. I'm not too concerned about Asian rust, not until it gets a little closer to us.

He plants Roundup Ready soybeans, but supplements that with a Treflan application preplant. It holds down the early weeds, and he can wait a little longer than most farmers to spray Roundup, getting by with just one pass. "It's an extra trip in the spring, and some might say it's old-fashioned," says Nechanicky. "But it's cheap and it really works for me. I just don't have any water hemp or wooly cup grass, and I give credit to the Treflan program."

Nechanicky says he learned something valuable last year about spraying soybeans: Don't spray Roundup in the evening, after the dew comes on. "One evening I sprayed soybeans until about 9:30 at night. Then I came back the next day and finished up. You could tell right to the row where I had stopped the night before, it didn't kill the weeds and I had to respray," he says. "It was the dew in the evening that diluted the Roundup just enough that it didn't work. I won't be spraying with the lights on this year, I'll stop by 7:00 or so."

Farther east, soybean planting conditions are even soggier this week. Roger Bommer at Brookville, Indiana, near the Ohio border in the southeast part of the state, says he's a third done on soybeans, of 230 acres total. His son runs the planter, and got started on them one day in the middle of last week. He planted that night and until he got rained out the next day, and it hasn't dried up since.

Weekend temperatures never got above 50 degrees. "We've had about 1.6 inches of rain, places north of here have had 3 or 4," says Bommer. But he's not worried about the soybean seed that is laying in the cold, wet ground. "I've seen it lay there 3 weeks and still come up," he says. "Besides, I never worry about what's been planted until I've got it all planted. When I'm done, then I'll go back and see how it's coming along."

One question Bommer has on his mind this year is whether it will pay to spray a fungicide this summer regardless of Asian rust. Some sources claim you get a yield bump. "I haven't decided yet, I may try some to see what happens." Last year, he was not happy with the results of late-season spraying for aphids and foxtail. The beans had filled his 30-inch rows, and the high-boy sprayer pretty much wiped out 2 rows on every pass. "I think it cost us yield," he says. His beans averaged about 54 bushels an acre, but others in his area did 70.

While April saw near perfect planting conditions for corn, May is trying to make up for it in the other direction as farmers dodge rain showers and bundle up in insulated clothes to plant soybeans.

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