Soybeans could replace significant corn acreage in Lamar County, Texas, in 2006 as farmers look for a crop that requires less energy, fertilizer and water.

County Extension agent Mike Morrow says 2006 acreage “will probably range from 27,000 to 28,000 with fewer corn acres, 15,000 to 18,000. For 2005, we estimated soybean harvested acres at 22,758 and corn harvested acres at 22,578,” Morrow says. “Corn and soybean acres combined were higher than usual due to fewer planted wheat acres in 2004-2005.”

He says the change in soybean to corn ratio is “primarily due to the cost of fertilizer. Also, the dry weather pattern we are in, considering water use of soybeans versus corn, will be a factor.”

He doesn’t anticipate the dry weather pattern tempting many growers into other crops, such as cotton. “Typical soybean producers will continue with soybeans because of fewer fertilizer dollars and lower overall input costs.”

That weather pattern is weighing heavily on farmers as they plan for 2006, however.

“Dry weather is a major concern at this point,” Morrow says. “Our area needs substantial rainfall between now and planting time. I think some will consider stale seedbed planting, using a burn-down herbicide application prior to planting. The majority of producers in this area already use Roundup Ready varieties for weed control.” Most Texas soybean growers aren’t overly concerned about Asian soybean rust but they will watch for symptoms and warnings from other areas.

“We didn't find ASR here last year,” Morrow says. “I think growers will certainly be aware of the possibility for rust and be prepared to come in with protective fungicide treatments if needed. If ASR occurs in Texas this growing season, we hope the Northeast Texas area will receive some advance notice from sentinel plantings and other soybean growing areas to our south and east.”

In addition to soybean rust, Morrow says producers will need to monitor fields for insects, especially stink bugs. “This area has always had the green stink bug. So far we have not found the Red Banded Stink Bug like they have in other growing areas.”

He anticipates no change in variety selection procedures.

“Most growers will probably continue as in the past with the Group IV maturities. Most try to spread out maturities, planting part of their acres to late maturing varieties (4.7 to 4.9), part to mid-Group IVs (4.4 to 4.6), and part to early varieties from 3.9 to 4.3.”

Morrow says growers’ hope for a better crop than last year, when poor growing conditions limited production. “The soybean crop was not very good last year due to the dry weather, especially lack of timely rainfall.”

Lamar is one of the top soybean counties in Texas.

e-mail: rsmith@prismb2b.com