Dry fall weather is usually good for soybean seed producers because it lowers the levels of seed infection and improves seed germination and vigor. Last fall soybean seed dried too quickly in many fields, with moistures well below the ideal seed moisture for harvest of 13 to 14 percent.

Seed moistures of 7 percent or lower were not uncommon in areas from which Southeast soybean seed typically come. These low moistures make the seed very brittle and susceptible to seed coat damage.

Damage to seed coats can also increase leakage of nutrients from the seed, which after planting, may further lower seed vigor and increase disease pressure from soilborne pathogens. This could be a problem with late plantings (after June 1) where stressful planting conditions like high soil temperatures, low soil moisture, etc are encountered and lower seed vigor could lead to stand failure.

Poor quality seed could also open up soybean plants to more stress, including insect damage. Managing pest problems in beans worth more than $13 per bushel should be an economic no-brainer.

Dunphy says, August will be the month to be scouting for corn earworms and other pests. “Prior to blooming, I’d consider corn earworm to be a foliage feeder, and I’d allow 25-30 percent of the foliage to be consumed before I’d feel justified in spraying. I would not add an insecticide to another spray that was going out anyway unless the worms had reached the action threshold,” he says. 

The threat from Asian soybean rust is a real one and is more a concern for later planted beans. However, with the Sentinel plot system in place and fungicides available to prevent and/or cure the disease, this threat shouldn’t provide an economic basis to not plant soybeans.

As has happened the past few years, the spread northward of Asian soybean rust isn’t likely to be an issue on beans planted before June 1. Extreme heat and drought in northwest Florida and Georgia has significantly blunted the northward movement of causal fungi. Barring a hurricane or series of tropical storms, the disease most likely won’t reach the upper Southeast in time to do much damage.

If tropical weather fronts do move through the area, growers are urged to closely monitor Sentinel sites that are in place in multiple counties from Georgia northward. These sites are closely monitored by IPM specialists and plant pathologists at Land-Grant institutions and should give growers plenty of time to apply fungicides, if needed.

Charles Hall, executive director of the North Carolina Soybean Growers Association says he was expecting some reduction in soybean acreage this year. The 60,000 acre drop, which was reported in the USDA’s late March Planting Intentions Survey was about what he expected. The additional drop of 70,000 more acres was not expected, he adds.

Most North Carolina growers reported extremely dry planting conditions early in the planting season, but timely rains allowed most to get beans planted on time and the crop looks really good so far this year, Hall says.

With demand seemingly high well beyond the end of harvest this year, the outlook for non-contracted beans looks extremely good. Weather will be the trump card, but if current weather trends continue, growers should be able to produce yields above the past five year average.