Dry weather cuts into area soybean yields

Friday, October 12, 2007

The drought continues in Southeast Missouri, and as farmers harvest their soybeans, they're finding out just how much the dry conditions affected their crops.

Some Bootheel farmers are getting yields of only five to 15 bushels per acre on their nonirrigated fields, said University of Missouri Extension agronomist Jeff House, a soybean specialist. In a good year, those farmers would be getting more than 25 bushels per acre.

"We've got some fields where farmers are not even going to put a combine in them," House said.

As of Sunday, the soybean harvest was 31 percent complete in Missouri, and 36 percent complete in Southeast Missouri, according to USDA estimates. In Southeast Missouri the USDA lists 63 percent of the soybean crop as in "poor" or "very poor" condition.

House estimated that 75 percent of the area soybean harvest might be complete Thursday afternoon. That's well ahead of schedule, as this summer's heat and dryness caused beans to drop their leaves before they typically would.

The feeble soybean crop is directly tied to drought conditions over the summer. Starting in June, Southeast Missouri dried up, leading to an August that was the driest on record, with only 0.01 inches of rainfall recorded at the National Weather Service's Cape Girardeau observation point, the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

For the March-to-August period, rainfall was 12.53 inches below normal in Cape Girardeau County, and anywhere from four to more than 10 inches below normal throughout Southeast Missouri counties, according to figures from the University of Missouri Extension.

September reversed the trend when 4.57 inches of rain fell at the weather service observation station. The normal rainfall for September is 3.3 inches.

Southeast Missouri counties are reporting anywhere from 25 percent loss to 90 percent loss on a variety of crops, said Dan Engemann, a drought assessment specialist with the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Most of those losses come from soybeans, cotton and pastureland. Nearly all the pastureland acres were devastated. The assessment data is being used by the department to request disaster assistance from the USDA's Washington, D.C., central office, Engemann said.

Soybean yield losses will be partially mitigated by a high price, if the markets hold at their current level. Thursday afternoon November soybeans were trading at $9.814 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, with January beans over $10. Those prices are about twice as high as farmers have gotten for their beans over the past few years.

Consolidated Grain and Barge at the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority will give farmers $9.59 for November delivery (the "basis" price, in which storage and transportation costs are factored in), said company manager John Sutton. The high prices are largely caused by the increase in corn acreage this growing season, he said.

Could break even

House said for farmers with severe losses, those prices may help them break even on soybean crops, if they're lucky.

Meanwhile, wheat futures also climbed Thursday, to $8.83 per bushel. Rises in soybean and wheat futures are tied to speculation that the USDA will revise its estimates for world crop supplies with declines in those crops.

Sutton said given the size of the global marketplace and the multitude of factors influencing prices, he doubts the local soybean shortfall has any bearing on the price famers get per bushel of the crop.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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