MISSOURI — With the extreme weather conditions of drought followed by severe flooding, Missouri soybean farmers have had to work extra hard to finish harvesting the remainder of their crop.
KMZU’s Dan Watson chatted with Bill Wiebold, Professor of Agronomy with the University of Missouri and State Extension Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, about what challenges the farmers faced this season and what can be done to try and improve yields for next season.
Click below to hear the conversation, which aired Wednesday on KMZU.
Both the drought and the flood have had adverse effects on the remaining soybeans. The drought the occurred over the summer caused some of the soybeans to produce small seeds.
“. . . small seeds are little bit harder to harvest and so when people are combining those soybean fields, they have to be careful and make sure those adjustments are correct so that they save as many of those seeds as possible,” Wiebold said.
Another side effect of the extra dry growing season was the strange and sometimes misleading maturation of the soybean plants themselves.
“Another problem that we are seeing is that particularly after a drought, soybean plants mature kind of strangely,” Wiebold explained, “The stems remain green, sometimes the leaves stay on it . . . even though the seeds mature and dry. So you can have a field that looks like its not ready for harvest, but the pods are dry and the other thing about those green stems, they’re very difficult to harvest.”
The recent wet weather has been tough on soybean farmers as well. An over-abundance of moisture can have a negative impact on the soybean plant itself, causing the unharvested seeds to possibly grow while still attached to the soybean plant.
“If water soaks into the pod then the seed swells and if there is enough water there, it will actually start to grow and sprout,” Wiebold stated.
All of these side effects can have a negative financial impact on the soybean farmers, particularly in terms of the amount of crop harvested from the field.
“So what you have there is just a lower yield and so where you may have been expecting say 50 to 80 bushels, depending on the amount of drought, that may be cut in half or cut by a quarter,” Wiebold said.
While lower yields are already difficult to deal with, lower grain quality can also play a role in the profitability of soybeans.
“Anything that reduces seed quality, grain quality because that reduces the price that farmer can get for the grain. What that does is decrease that amount of grain we’re pulling off that field or the value of the grain,” Wiebold explained.
While this harvest season may be difficult, there are some measures that can be taken to better prepare farmers for next growing season and try to maximize yields for the next harvest season.
“Up front what we got to be a little bit careful about is what we’re doing to our soils in terms of compaction,” Wiebold stated, “Next year we have to repair some of those ruts, but always remind ourselves that soil is a living organism and we have to be careful that don’t get out a day or two early and cause some compaction and some harm because what happens to that field in the spring then can relate to, whether the crop, how its going to tolerate the droughts.”
Another aspect of being prepared for the next year is to maintain a healthy root system and treat the field as needed to prevent disease and insects from spreading.
” You want to have a good root system. We think that we’ve got underground diseases or insects, we want to use seed treatment to help protect that root system because that will help us if we have a drought next year.”