Soybean harvests reported to be above-average
While heavy rain has caused recent harvest delays throughout the region, late summer rains were key in producing above-average soybean yields, growers throughout the region report.
A Millington, Md. farmer said he had his best overall average in more than four decades of farming.
A Virginia seed representative said he’s seen yield monitors spike at 80, 90 and 100 bushels per acre.
“So far, what I’ve harvested has been above-average,” said Cory Atkins, a Seaford, Del., farmer and chairman of the Delaware Soybean Board.
In central Maryland, Union Bridge farmer and chairwoman of the Maryland Soybean Board, Belinda Burrier said she’s “super-pleased” with what they have harvested so far.
Her area suffered a long dry spell earlier in the summer that greatly impacted corn production but hot days and rain in August and September is showing a different story in soybeans. She said she worried the intense heat in the area would cause seed pods to abort and hurt yield but that ended up not being the case.
“Soybeans like a lot of heat but dryness and heat they’re not too thrilled with,” Burrier said.
The Burriers were still cutting double crop beans and experimental trials looking at a variety of treatments.
“We’re experimenting with different biologicals and it seems to be helping maintain the bloom,” Burrier said.
In Virginia, drought conditions impacted corn production in several areas but ample rain in August and September swept across the state at just the right time for much of the soybean acres.
“When it started raining it never stopped. These beans pretty much had a perfect reproductive cycle,” said Tyler Franklin, an Axis Seed representative. “I haven’t heard about anybody talking about poor quality soybeans in the state.”
Dr. David Holshouser, Virginia Tech Extension agronomist and soybean specialist noted there are a few areas where dry spells have kept yields down but in general the crop is a welcome change from last year when drought punished the soybean crop.
“I hate to speculate too much but I’m pretty excited about this year’s crop,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be a record breaker yet, but most of the yields I’ve seen have been pretty good.”
In Essex County, Va., Waring Baylor of Port Tobacco Farms said hot and dry weather in July “basically fried” their corn crop and he became concerned drought damage would carry over into soybeans.
“August couldn’t have been more timely as far as the rains,” he said. “We’re so thankful one of our two crops was successful. Now, we’re just battling with all the moisture we have in the ground.”
Holshouser recalled there were also challenges in getting the crop started.
“We battled to get them planted,” he said. “May was cold. It was a struggle early on.”
Some growers said they’ve been pleasantly surprised with the yields while others said by the way they looked and had grown through the year, they had higher expectations but are still pleased with the crop.
“You can’t really judge a soybean crop by the way it looks,” Atkins said. “Sometimes it looks good from the windshield but not as good from the combine. Sometimes it looks better when you’re in the combine.”
While favorable weather at the right time was cited as the crop’s primary driver by far, growers mentioned a variety of other factors that played a role.
Baylor said that using a rye cover crop helped by adding a lot of biomass — and while it took some planter adjustment in the spring to plant through “in the end I think that helped contribute to the yields because it helped conserve water.”
Baylor added utilizing technology like yield mapping to aid variety selection and variable rate application for fertilizer and lime helped put them in position for a good crop if the weather cooperated.
“We can’t control a lot of things like the weather so we have to make the best decisions on what we can control,” he said. All these things help contribute to success.”
Holshouser said the region’s history with no-till systems is helpful in holding moisture during dry spells.
“The beans held up well and then the rains came and they responded,” he said. “Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have expected this.”
Atkins said moving up his planting date for soybeans appears to have worked well this year “especially coming off of a not great corn crop.” Using cover crop blends to put “natural nitrogen” in the soil for when the soybeans needed it helped as well, he added.
Along with a good crop, farmers harvesting unsold bushels are capitalizing on an unexpected market increase with soybeans selling locally for more than $11 per bushel in recent weeks. Area farmers noted the increase is a bit bittersweet for some growers who forward contracted part of their harvest at an earlier lower price but added it also presents an opportunity to sell some of next year’s crop.
“That’s probably where you’ll get people disappointed,” said Chestertown, Md., farmer Jonathan Reed. “The harvest price normally doesn’t go up like it has.” Either way, Reed said it’s a good thing for farmers.
“We’ve been waiting for it for three years, now it’s finally catching up,” he said.
Federalsburg, Md., farmer and Stine Seed salesman Greg Harris said the stronger prices adds confidence to the market and for growers going into next year.
“It’s a huge boost I think to the ag economy,” Harris said. “I think we’re starting to see these tariffs pay off and farmers are starting to realize that.”
Relatively new technology advances in tolerance traits for fighting weed resistance are poised to help growers as well, the seed reps said. Four basic trait packages — RoundReady 2 Xtend, Enlist, Liberty Link GT27 and XtendFlex each combine multiple options for herbicide control to keep fields cleaner and support plant health and production.
“I think the yields are going to get better,” Harris said. “Once they’ve been on the market for a few years, like any other package or trait, yields are going to get better.”