Soybean harvest rebounds for growers in Delmarva

Senior Editor

(Nov. 6, 2012) As the drought which plagued the Mid-Atlantic this crop season began to fade and rain returned, it was evident that, for the dryland corn, it was too late.
But the soybeans, which seemed to have gone into hibernation, suddenly awoke, shaking off their stupor and putting on new growth.
A farmer in his soybean field with plants up to the waist was not unusual.
And those plants had pods from the bottom to the top. A bumper crop seemed to be in the making. And it is now being confirmed reports from the field.
Talbot County ag agent Shannon Dill runs the county’s soybean improvement program, now in its 42nd year. Accepting the fact that the corn crop was stunted by the drought, nevertheless, Dill said, in some parts of the county soybean yields — in bushels per acre — have run “double and sometimes even triple that of corn.”
In the county’s corn club — now in its 61st year and the oldest club of its kind in the nation — many farmers “are struggling to meet the 100-bushel mark,” Dill said, even though they are being very selective as to what part of the field they select for sampling.
“In the soybean fields, the yield monitors went all over the place,” Dill added, estimating that yield field averages are usually somewhere in the upper-50s or even mid-60s, particularly in areas of the county with sandy soils. Most of the full season beans have been harvested. As Hurricane Sandy approached, combines were teeming in the fields to save the crop.
Employees at a Perdue grain receiving station said that with the hurricane on the way, producers “just forgot about the moisture content” of the beans. Many farmers were saying that they could not remember ever seeing soybean yields of the magnitude this year.
A Talbot producer, noting that indeed his soybean yields were higher than those of his corn, wondered whether the beans benefited from the hot-and-dry early in the season and whether the irrigation companies might want to rethink their recommendations for turning on the systems early in the growth cycle of the beans.
“I got the best soybean crop I ever had,” he said. “With the corn crop the way it was, it will sure help the bottom line.”
Dr. William Kenworthy, who recently retired as University of Maryland soybean specialist but continues his interest in the annual soybean variety tests, said he has been “surprised by some of the yields I have heard. Scattered rain during summer made the difference,” he said. His reports have indicated “yields from very low to in the 50s to 70s bushels per acre.”
“I haven’t started calculating yields in my variety tests but looking at the raw data,” he added, “we will have these kinds of yields.”
Another observation about this year’s crop came from Caroline County ag agent Jim Lewis.
He noted that the average bean yields coming off fields which had been planted to wheat – so-called wheat beans — had been running this year about five bushels an acre better than previous years — 55 to 60 bushels per acre as compared to 40 to 50 bushels per acre.
Then he recalled that because of the warm spring, farmers had been able to harvest that wheat about two weeks earlier than normal, giving them a two-week jump on planting the beans. That two week advantage is why farmers like to plant barley ahead of their beans. Normally, it comes off about two weeks ahead of their wheat.