The high price and relatively low input costs of growing soybeans has sparked a renewed interest in the crop in the upper Southeast. Add in a double digit increase in wheat acres and the opportunities for double-cropping look like a natural.

In 2007, Virginia growers proved that soybeans, either full season or double-cropped can be grown at yield levels comparable to the Midwest. Virginia Tech Soybean Specialist David Holshouser points out that 14 new members were inducted into the Virginia Soybean Growers Association Bushel Clubs.

At the top of the Bushels Club is Roxbury, Va. grower Jon Black, who was inducted into the 90 Bushel Club. Black won the state yield contest with a whopping 93.2 bushels of full season soybeans per acre, using Pioneer 94M80 variety beans.

Black is a long-time no-till farmer and producing high yields is nothing new to he and his farming partner and brother Keith Black. They farm about 1,000 acres, most of it double-cropped, and have produced three bale per acre cotton in good weather years in central Virginia.

John Hula captured second place in the full season competition, with 89.6 bushels per acre, using D&PL DP51105 variety beans. Hula was inducted into the 80 Bushel Per Acre Club at the group’s recent annual meeting.

Eldon Horst took third place in the competition and was one of four Virginia growers inducted into the 70 Bushels Per Acre Club. In addition eight new members were inducted into the 60 Bushels Per Acre Club.

One of the 60 Bushels Per Acre club members, Keith Shipe, took home the top double-crop yield award, growing 64.7 bushels per acre of Pioneer 93M92 beans.

Though not all the high yields were produced on long-term no-till land, there was a common and constant connection between high yield and no-till.

A firm believer in conservation and in need of any labor-reducing farm practices, Black began no-till farming in the mid 1970s. “We started with soybeans behind wheat and corn, but we always worked the wheat land out. In the late 1980s, we went all the way with no-till on full-season soybeans and corn,” he says. By the mid-1990s they began experimenting with no-till wheat and subsequently went to no-till systems on virtually all their land.

Soybean production was down slightly in Virginia in 2007, which makes the high yields even more significant. For one thing, it demonstrates that in a drought year, soil that has been in long-term no-tillage systems will hold and utilize moisture better than soil in conventional-tillage systems.

The state's soybean yield averaged 27 bushels per acre, four bushels below 2006, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported. About 480,000 acres were harvested for beans, down 30,000 acres from the previous year. Soybean production is estimated at 13 million bushels, 18 percent less than last year's production.

Soybean production was down 19 percent nationally from the record-high 2006 amount of nearly 3.2 billion bushels.

In North Carolina drought took a big toll on soybean production, Despite the sporadic crop failures caused by the extended hot, dry weather, some areas of the state were able to product consistently high yields. Phillip Davis of Old Fort in McDowell County won the 2007 state soybean yield contest with a yield of 85 bushels per acre. The strong results were achieved despite a statewide drought that severely impacted state soybean yields in 2007.

Ray Rogerson of Pasquotank County was runner-up with a yield of 79.9 bushels per acre and was the area winner in the Tidewater Region.

Derek Potter of Pamlico County recorded the third-highest yield of 75.2 bushels per acre.

The state contest is based on yield from a measured and verified three-acre plot. The record for the highest yield is 92.9 bushels per acre, set by Mike and Phil McClain in 2006.

Continued low stocks of soybeans worldwide, in part fueled by the need for soybeans for biodiesel production, has kept bean prices high, providing incentive for Virginia-North Carolina growers to plant more beans. Long-time North Carolina State University Soybean Specialist Jim Dunphy says he expects the increase to to be minimal, with most coming in double cropping situations with wheat.

Though seed supply has been an issue in some areas of the country, Virginia Tech’s David Holshouser says growers in the upper Southeast have a number of good varieties from which to choose.

In 2007 variety tests in Virginia, Holshouser notes there were numerous varieties from Maturity Groups III through V that produced high yields and with various pest resistance characteristics. A complete listing of the 2007 Virginia Variety tests can be found at his website http://www.vaes.vt.edu/tidewater/soybeans.

Despite widespread rainfall in January and February, the upper Southeast remains in a severe drought situation. Rainfall has been only slightly below normal, but the area was so far behind, above average rainfall was needed to alleviate the drought situation.

Going into the 2008 season soybean growers have more options than usual. The high market price makes full-season beans a good option on land suitable for soybean production. The 20-30 percent increase in wheat planted in the fall of 2007 also provides some excellent opportunities to double the profit potential and reduce the risk, again on land that will support both beans and wheat.

e-mail: rroberson@farmpress.com