The Early Bean Gets the Cheese

Missouri farmers are more willing to plant soybeans early to take advantage of the August premium. Compiled by staff

Published on: Aug 27, 2004

Soybean growers in southeast Missouri have contracts to sell their harvests for up to $1 more per bushel if they can deliver them to the elevators in August, a University of Missouri soybean breeder said.

"There's a premium of 50 cents to $1 for beans delivered in August," says Grover Shannon of the University of Missouri Delta Research Center in Portageville. "We're definitely going to be planting soybeans earlier. That's the way the farmers are going."

Shannon and other Delta scientists have studied early planting of soybeans, and they will present the results of their research at the Delta Center Field Day, scheduled for Sept. 2. Alan Blaine, soybean specialist at Mississippi State University, is an expert in early-planted soybean practices. At the field day, he will discuss key steps to success and will offer tips about how the practice can make farmers more money.

"Central Mississippi soybean growers are already harvesting beans they planted in March," Shannon says. "They're only 250 miles from here, so why can't growers here do the same thing? Well, they can. They can plant in very early April, as soon as the ground will hold a tractor."

So far, he said, the data indicate "early planting does not hurt yield at all. In fact, it probably benefits it." Drought avoidance is one advantage because early varieties will flower and enter the reproductive stage during May and June when rainfall is more abundant.

"Just how early can you plant?" Shannon says. "Some of the early-maturing varieties aren't very well adapted to our conditions yet, and we need to work on that." But he noted that the last chance of spring frost in the Bootheel is between April 5 and April 10. "It takes at least two weeks for the plants to come up, so they're rarely affected by frost."

Among the keys to successful early planting are shallow-planting depth, treated seed and good drainage, Shannon said. If those steps are followed, a Group III crop planted in early to mid-April should be ready in plenty of time for early delivery.

Another advantage of early-maturing varieties is that they allow more time for farmers to plant wheat after beans, or to prepare their land for the following year's crop. "Around here, they do a lot of land-leveling," he says. "This gives them a little more time to do those sorts of things."

Still, the biggest benefit to farmers this year is the premium price that early beans command. "The buyers need beans at a certain time to go down the river for export," Shannon says. "One grower told me he's going to get $8.95 a bushel if he delivers in August."

The Delta Field Day also will highlight research by MU scientists in such areas as cotton production, row-crop irrigation, rice production, weed control and other topics. For more information, call the Delta Center at (573) 379-5431.