Georgia farmers are showing more interest in soybeans than in several years, and rightfully so. On paper, soybeans show good profit potential, at $100 to $250 per acre over variable costs, even with current high energy, seed, fertilizer and other input costs.

As we go into the 2008 production season, we can expect the majority of 2008 Georgia soybeans will be double-cropped. Georgia farmers currently have about 475,000 acres of small grain, 100,000 acres of winter grazing and 25,000 acres of vegetables planted. We anticipate that at least half of these acres will be planted to soybeans this summer.

Georgia farmers will likely plant at least 100,000 acres of full-season soybeans, and will likely irrigate 20 to 25 percent of 2008 plantings. It appears there will be upwards of 400,000 acres of Georgia soybeans this year. If realized, this will be the largest Georgia soybean crop since the 1990s.

Seed supply will be short, especially for late maturing varieties. The soybean seed industry anticipated some expansion of soybean acreage and increased seed production. But current soybean interest has exceeded all expectations. The bottom line is that we are facing a soybean seed shortage for the late maturing varieties, those especially needed for the double-crop plantings.

Early maturing soybean varieties may be substituted for late maturing varieties when planting on productive soils, planting before June 10, and/or when planting in close rows. Letting your seed needs be known to the seed dealer and exploring the suitability of given varieties to field situations will be important this year.

Eventually, you can expect market prices to decline. A large South American soybean crop should start entering the marketplace by late March and April. This, along with an expected increase in U.S. farm soybean plantings, should start putting downward pressure on soybean prices by the summer months unless adverse weather problems develop in a major soybean production area.

In light of this likely landscape, it seems prudent to make some forward contract sales to take advantage of current high prices. Because soybean yields are highly variable, it would be wise to not forward contract more than about one-third of expected dryland production and one-half of expected irrigated production.

Developing a good soybean production plan will be important to success in this year as in all years. Much of the improved soybean profit potential will be in making above average yields. The planning process now for above average yields should include:

  • Site — Is the soil productive? Does it have nematodes or other pests?

  • Soil-pH/fertility — Are these suitable for soybeans? Do I have a soil test? Will I need an inoculant to insure good nitrogen fixation?

  • Soil compaction — Will deep tillage be needed? Can I avoid re-compacting the soil during land preparation and planting?

  • Planting date — Can I plant on time? If not, what variety and cultural adjustments should I make?

  • Soybean variety — What are some good varieties for this field? Can I get seed? Does the seed have good germination?

  • Drought — What can I do to reduce these losses?

  • Weeds — Do I need a “burndown” herbicide? Do I need to tank-mix something with glyphosate to get improved weed control? Can I make timely applications?

  • Insects — How will I scout fields? Do I need a Dimilin/boron treatment? What insecticides should I use?

  • Soybean rust — Will it be a problem in 2008? How can I stay abreast of the status of soybean rust? When will I need to make treatments? What will I need to control rust and other foliar soybean diseases?

  • Harvest — Will I need a harvest aid? Can I harvest efficiently? Can I harvest on time?

Helpful insights on these production questions can be found in the 2008 Georgia Soybean Production Guide. This bulletin is available at the local county Extension office or can be viewed on line at: www.caes.uga.edu/commodities/fieldcrops/soybeans