By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
PLANTERSVILLE – Kenneth Oswalt, like many farmers across Northeast Mississippi, didn’t get to spend the time he wanted in his fields last week.
Rain early in the week dumped nearly four inches on some of the 900 acres of soybeans Oswalt farms, so he spent most of week waiting for them to dry.
But the faster he and other growers can get their beans harvested, the better.
“I’m looking at 40 to 50 bushels an acre, at least on this field” said Oswalt, standing in one of his plots in Plantersville “If you get 35, you’ve done well. Anything above you’ve done really good.”
In its Sept. 1 USDA Crop Production report, the agency projected nationwide 2012 soybean production of 2.63 billion bushels – an average yield of 35.3 bushels per acre. The next report comes out Thursday.
Meanwhile, soybean prices are hovering between $15 to $16 per bushel, down from a high of $17.75 earlier this summer, due to better-than-expected harvests from the drought-plagued Midwest.
Charlie Stokes, the area agronomy agent for the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said soybean growers are in good shape, even though their harvesting is delayed a bit.
“I talked to some who have started harvesting, and they’re getting yields in the low 40s to mid-50s,” he said.
Brian Williams, an agricultural economist at Mississippi State, said statewide yields could be about 41 bushels an acre.
“Last year, it was about 38; in recent years, yields have been in the upper 30s,” he said.
Trent Irby, an MSU soybean specialist, said about 80 percent of the state’s soybeans has been harvested. Some 2.1 million acres were planted, about 17 percent higher this year compared to last year.
But, he said, “Harvesting slowed a lot and pretty much came to a halt last week. It may be today or the early part of this week before they can get back in the fields.”
Indeed, that’s what Oswalt was facing last Wednesday. There was standing water in many of his fields, and he was going let them dry as much as possible.
“You take a 30,000-pound machine, which will hold 300 bushels of soybeans – that’s another 18,000 pounds – and you’ll get stuck in the mud 30 inches,” he said.
Also, harvesting wet fields will double costs and take away already-thin margins.
So as much as Oswalt and other farmers don’t like it, they’ll have to wait out Mother Nature. “We don’t need any more rain,” Oswalt said. “We’ve gotten all we need.”
The came can’t be said for corn, which could have benefited from more water in some areas of the state.
Harvests were good for those who got the moisture they needed. For others, it was too little and/or too late.
Stokes said corn growers north of Tupelo were hit hard by a very dry June that withered what had been projected to be a great harvest.
“South of Tupelo, we managed to outrun much of the drought,” he said. “June was the hottest, driest month we had, and it hurt not to have a lot of rain. They were still able to harvest some corn, but not like what they were hoping.”
Larson said the latest yield estimates for Mississippi farmers was 150 bushels an acre for corn. That’s better than yields the past three years (128 in 2011, 136 in 2010 and 126 in 2009). Corn planting acreage hasn’t changed much in recent years, hovering between 750,000 to 840,000 acres.
“The peak in 2007 was 900,000 acres,” Larson said. “After that it’s been less, but closer to the high side of 840,000, were we are this year.”
Prices are “very good,” he added. Earlier in the summer as the drought deepened in the heavy corn-growing belt of the Midwest, prices skyrocketed on supply fears. Harvests are better than expected, and prices have dropped, but they still remain at high levels.
Most of the corn grown in Mississippi, Larson added, is grown for animal feeding purposes and some ethanol production.