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Soybeans Face Uphill Battles In Fields, Market
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Growers are just completing their part of the soybean planting process, and now it's Mother Nature's turn.
Tom Jones, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the weather forecasts are making the soybean market more volatile than normal as predictions range from adequate moisture to severe drought conditions for this season.
"According to market analysts, if the national crop experiences a severe drought, we could produce 2.4 billion bushels at about $7 per bushel. With only a moderate drought, the yield would increase to 2.7 billion bushels, but the price would decline to $5. Adequate moisture could mean a 3 billion bushel harvest and prices around $4," Jones said. "On the first of June, prices were in the moderate- to severe-drought range, or between $5.13 and $5.36 per bushel."
Jones said farmers need to know how much their crop cost to grow and their fields' normal yields to determine a breakeven cost so they are ready to react when the price reaches an expected profit level.
"Those who make it this year will be the farmers who know the price they need and can react when the market turns favorable. Mississippi's inconsistent yields mean farmers may only want to price a maximum of half of their expected crop," he said. "Very few actually sell at the best price, but a farmer's best goal is just to make a consistent profit."
Jones said a majority of Mississippi's soybean growers sell their crop for cash at harvest, rather than forward pricing or selling on the futures market.
"The lowest price you'll get is at harvest time," he said.
Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, said crops are running out of moisture quickly as late spring fields look more like they do in midsummer.
"We need a good general rain because even a one-inch rain just won't last long in these conditions," Blaine said. "Some of the early beans needed irrigation by the end of May, but early beans look like a million bucks. They are the best beans in the state."
Blaine said some isolated problems with grasshoppers and snails can be traced to no-till and reduced tillage fields.
"Possibly applying burndowns earlier could have made these pests move out of the fields for other food sources," Blaine said.
Jim Thomas, Extension irrigation specialist, said the lack of adequate weed control is another problem impacted by the drought conditions.
"When water is short, crops don't need to be competing with other plants for moisture," Thomas said. "Now, growers need to watch narrow-row crops closely. As crops begin to canopy, they will require more water than wider-row crops or those that have not begun to canopy."