Soybean and cotton growers in the Carolinas and Virginia dodged a major bullet when Hurricane Isaac veered westward from its original projected path. However, late season production woes may not yet be over for late-maturing crops.

The Carolinas and Virginia planted record or near record soybean crops this year and a three dollar or so price bump from planting time to now has only intensified the pressure to keep yield and quality of this year’s crop as high as possible.

A big fear is that a tropical system of the size and severity of Isaac would push disease causing spores far enough northward to infect this year’s big soybean crop with Asian Soybean Rust. So far that hasn’t happened, but the crop isn’t harvested yet.

Veteran North Carolina State University Soybean Specialist Jim Dunphy says, “Asian Soybean Rust has been confirmed closer to North Carolina’s soybeans with the announcement that rust has been confirmed in Autauga, Dallas, Fayette, and Hale counties in Alabama, Lowndes and Noxubee counties in Mississippi, and Toombs and Washington counties in Georgia. 

( See Soybean rust confirmed in Alabama).

“The Washington County, Ga., find puts rust approximately 190 miles from Charlotte, and to within 500 miles of virtually all of North Carolina’s soybean crop.”

Dunphy urges caution, but not over-reaction. “We do not recommend spraying soybeans with a fungicide to control Asian Soybean Rust if they are not yet blooming, if they are blooming but rust has not been confirmed within 100 miles, or if full sized seeds are present in the top of the plant (stage R6).”

A highly sophisticated and closely monitored system of sentinel soybean plots is in place and in the past has been highly successful in alerting growers to any movement of soybean rust in the Upper Southeast. 

Cotton growers in the area are likewise sweating out the next few weeks as this year’s crop continues to mature a little earlier than past years.

Had Hurricane Isaac continued its earlier projected path through northwest Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, some of the cotton crop would have been defoliated and most would have been heavily weighed down with bolls that were near maturity.

In much of the Upper Southeast, too much moisture has been a complete opposite of what farmers in the Midwest and parts of the Delta have faced this year.

“Rainfall and humidity are causing an increase in disease in all our crops,” says Halifax County, N.C., Extension Agent Arthur Whitehead.

He says target spot is being found in many cotton fields and growers are considering treatment options, especially in late maturing cotton. Combined with boll rot, target spot has the potential to reduce yield and quality in this year’s cotton crop.