“Last year our growers had very similar planting season weather as they had this year and they only averaged 26 bushels of soybeans per acre. Cotton on the other hand was planted in the same conditions, but produced a near record yield.”

Vanderberry says the drop in soybean acreage is likely in part due to dry weather at wheat harvest time preventing growers from planting beans directly behind wheat. Had wheat harvest weather been more ideal, he says its likely more double-crop soybeans would have been planted in North Carolina.

While $13 a bushel for soybeans may equate to $1.20 per pound for cotton, the yield potential of both crops is not the same. No doubt, the big increase in cotton acreage is the primary reason soybean acreage in the Tar Heel state has dropped back to more traditional levels over the past couple of years.

Weather is always a trump card and planting conditions have not been good across much of the Southeast. Intense, often record-breaking heat from April through June and severe drought in some areas has significantly delayed planting of most crops.

Some areas of both North and South Carolina will likely break long-standing records of consecutive days with temperatures in excess of 90 degrees F.  Though sporadic rainfall across both states has improved soil moisture, high daytime temperatures have negated better soil conditions.

In eastern North Carolina, where cotton acreage was predicted to be up 35-40 percent, extended dry weather could have played a role in increasing soybean acreage — it didn’t.

A similar scenario may have also played out in parts of Virginia, where cotton acreage was projected to be up more than 40 percent.

Though weather may have cut soybean acreage, that scenario doesn’t seem to make much agronomic sense. Typically, full season beans are planted later than cotton, peanuts and most other crops grown in the Carolinas. Low soil moisture that delayed cotton and other crops throughout the two-state region was better later in the planting season in most areas.

Veteran North Carolina State University Soybean Specialist Jim Dunphy says, “A lot of the North Carolina crop, both full-season and double-crop, went in a little earlier than usual, mainly where they had rain and, therefore, adequate moisture to get the crop up and growing.” 

Significant pockets of the state, especially east of I-95, were dry enough that planting was later than usual as farmers waited for rain, and those beans will be pretty vulnerable to the weather, Dunphy says.

With soybean acreage already projected to be down slightly in 2011, supply of seed should not have been any problem. In fact, growers report a good supply and good prices for 2011 seed.

Seed quality is another issue, but again not one that typically influences such a dramatic drop in acreage from March Planning to June planting.