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SMART Program Helps Grow Great Soybeans
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A program aimed at improving soybean yields in Mississippi helped farmers produce 1998 soybean yields that, despite the drought, averaged 45 bushels an acre, 20 more than the state average.
Dr. Alan Blaine, agronomist and soybean specialist, and Jim Thomas, irrigation specialist, both with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, coordinate the Soybean Management by Application of Research and Technology program. This SMART program links farmers with researchers, and Extension specialists and county agents to better manage soybean fields for increased profits.
This year, the SMART program had 33 participating fields. The 18 irrigated fields averaged 49.7 bushels per acre and 38.1 bushels per acre on the 15 non-irrigated fields. This compares to the projected 1998 state average of 25 bushels per acre, Blaine said. The severe drought cut yields across the state.
"With the SMART program, we're trying to show soybean farmers they can increase yields and profit potential by using the latest technology," Blaine said. "Management practices for each SMART field do not guarantee success. Recommendations are based on previous production problems, production history, field scouting, soil samples and the producer's concerns."
Dr. Billy Moore, a former Extension plant pathologist, and Dr. Jim Hamer, retired Extension entomologist, serve as SMART program managers. Their work is funded by the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board and Mississippi Soybean Association with grower check-off funds. Moore, Hamer and local county agents visit the SMART fields at least once each week.
These specialists, Blaine and Thomas consult with farmers on all aspects of soybean production from variety selection and irrigation scheduling to fall tillage and harvest in an attempt to make the best decision for each field.
"Exposure to all specialists generally covers any potential problem the soybean farmer may be faced with in his field," Moore said. "The one thing that we're after is the bottom line. We want to increase profits, which may be an increase in yields or a reduction in expenses."
Walt and Sonny Diggs of Tchula farmed a 39 acre SMART field in Ebenezer with Carl Britt. This year was their first enrolled in the SMART program, and they intend to stay enrolled as long as possible.
"We were real satisfied with results this year," Walt Diggs said. "We decided to manage our field the way they said, and it paid off."
The Diggs field had been planted in corn the last three years, and before that cotton. Despite an erratic growing season statewide, the non-irrigated field averaged 61.4 bushels of soybean per acre.
"If you average 30 bushels an acre on dry land soybeans, you've done exceptionally well," Diggs said. "We had no idea yields would come in at what they did."
In addition to the SMART field, the Diggs managed another 600 acres of dry land soybeans according to recommendations made for the SMART field. This acreage averaged yields of more than 40 bushels an acre.
Diggs attributed the success of his fields to early planting and timely application of weed control that the program recommended.
"Normally, we would plant cotton, and then when we were finished, we'd plant beans. This year we reversed it," Diggs said. "Sometimes in the past with soybean prices so low, you tolerate a few weeds, but this year we set the tolerance level at zero, and I think it paid off."
Diggs said they plan to continue SMART practices even after they are no longer enrolled in the program.