The big holdup on planting high value beans in the Southeast seems to continue to be low yield potential. If 2011 production is a good indication, those concerns are at least partially justified.

Among the Southeast states, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama all produced at least 30 bushels per acre. Virginia had a whopping 13 bushel per acre increase in yield, with a state average of 39 bushels of soybeans per acre.

By comparison, in the Midwest, most of the top producing soybean states in the Midwest had a drop in yield. Kansas led the way with 53.5 bushels per acre and a one percent yield increase. Iowa, at 50.5 bushels per acre was down slightly in production as were Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio — each producing 46-47.5 bushels per acre.

Virginia Tech Soybean Specialist David Holshouser says the primary reason soybean yield increased by 13 bushels per acre from 2010 to 2011 is moisture and lack of moisture. A better way to look at this may be trend line yields since our yields vary so much from year-to-year, he notes.

Trend line yields for Virginia since 1995 are moving up an average of 0.44 bushels per year (versus 0.5 bushels for the entire USA). “Our trend line yield was at 27 bushels per acre in 1995 and at almost 35 bushels per acre in 2010,” Holshouser says. 

“Keep in mind that although we averaged about 31 bushels per acre (1995-2010), I’ve only seen us yield near that average in 3 of the 15 years that I’ve been at Virginia Tech. It’s usually quite a bit greater or quite a bit less than average.” 

“We can yield with the Midwest, but we have to have the rainfall. We don’t have the high water-holding capacity soils like they do in the Midwest,” he explains. As one grower recently stated, “We’re only 10 to 14 days away from the last rain to a drought.”