October 31, 2003



Soybeans Yield in US From Late-Planted Crop Falls Short of Expectation

Hopes for improved yields from late-planted soybeans in US' Midwest were fading this week as farmers were finding that hot weather last summer and an early fall freeze stunted the crop's growth, crop experts said.


Dry weather late in the summer cooked much of the U.S. soybean crop in the western Midwest during the critical pod-filling stage. A hard freeze in September across the Midwest prevented the crop from developing fully.


Farmers have hoped that later-planted beans had not reached pod-fill during the harshest heat of August and might produce better crops. But with 85% of the U.S. harvest complete through Sunday, crop experts said yields remained poor.


"It's still been pretty disappointing. I think we're still looking at the 30 to 35 bushel range," said Mark Carlton, crop specialist with Iowa State University.


The U.S. Agriculture Department projects Iowa as the No. 2 U.S. soybean-producing state behind Illinois this year, after averaging 48 bushels per acre in 2002. But USDA, as of October 1 conditions, cut Iowa's 2003 yield to 34 bushels an acre, down from 39 seen just a month earlier.


USDA also cut the total U.S. soybean crop to 2.47 billion bushels, down 7% from September and 10% below 2002. Average yield was seen at 34 bushels per acre, from 38 in 2002.


But USDA's November 12 report may cut production further, if reports on yields from "double-crop soybeans" hold true to current form. Such fields are seeded after winter wheat is harvested in June, but drought still sapped many fields.


"We had a few farmers that tried, but this year it's been a complete disaster. We're looking at maybe 10-bushel (an acre yield) soybeans," Carlton said of Iowa's double-crop beans.

"The soil was just completely dried out when they planted the beans, and there was just not enough rain to recover," he added.


In the southern part of Indiana, the fourth largest soy producer, the double-crop soybeans have looked better than early soybeans. But an Indiana agronomist said the yields have remained low.


"If they yield as good as they look, I think they'll be pleasantly surprised. But what we're hearing is that they're not yielding that well," said Chuck Mansfield, extension agronomist with Purdue University.


USDA this month revised its forecast for Indiana's soybean crop down to 40 bushels per acre, a 3-bushel drop from September.


Double-crop beans weren't the only late beans being affected.


Ohio, the seventh largest soybean producer, saw rains in the early summer that delayed soybean seeding until late June.


"When we got into June planting it all went to hell, and we had a lot planted in June," said Jim Beuerlein, agronomist with Ohio State University. "Some of our late-planted beans just got caught right in the middle of pod-filling. They're 5, 10, 15 bushels, that kind of stuff."


Michigan, which has one of the latest harvested crops, saw USDA drop its state yield projection by 6 bushels per acre from September.


"Normally we're at around 38 bushels, and this year we're going to come in in the low 30s," said Kurt Thelen, extension agronomist with Michigan State University.

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