Texas soybean acreage could increase slightly in 2006 as some farmers switch from corn or other higher-input crops, but significant acreage shifts are unlikely, says Texas Cooperative Extension Service soybean specialist Jim Heitholt.
And soybean farmers, he says, are not likely to change production practices significantly but may improve production potential by fine-tuning management practices. Heitholt recently responded to Farm Press Staff questions regarding 2006 soybean production.
Q. Will higher production costs affect Texas soybean acreage in 2006?
A. “Texas, for several years now, has consistently planted between 200,000 and 300,000 acres (of soybeans) per year. Every winter we see reasons to expect a soybean acreage boost, such as the high cost of nitrogen limiting corn acreage and poor cereal grain yields from past years. Unfortunately, the soybean has had its share of challenges too, including the stinkbug — flat pod syndrome, drought, and the looming threat of rust, so acreage stays in the same range.
Q: What, if any, changes are growers likely to make to increase efficiency in 2006.
Answer: “There are not a lot of changes but growers might want consider the following:
Follow the 10-day weather forecast beginning in March and be prepared to plant in mid-March (Upper Gulf Coast of Texas) or late March (North Texas) if prediction is favorable (i.e., one that does not predict a frost or a heavy rain). Otherwise, target early April for planting. When planting early, strongly consider using a seed treatment to reduce chances of soil-borne seedling diseases. Seed treatments don't always make a difference but their effects are frequent enough, profound enough, and cheap enough to justify, especially when wet and cold conditions follow planting.
Scout crop regularly and look for thrips, stinkbugs, and rust. Web sites such as http://www.usda.gov/soybeanrust/  and http://www.sbrusa.net/  are among the sites to visit to find out whether rust is near your production region.
We see a lot of interest in using closely placed twin rows or double rows if one grows soybean on 38-inch beds. James Grichar in south Texas has been doing this for several years and has shown yield increases Researchers in the Mississippi Delta report positive effects on yield in 2005 from twin rows. Whether this practice will lend itself to soybean production in North Texas remains to be seen.”
Question: Are there new varieties or products available for 2006?
A: “As for varieties, new ones such as Deltapine DP5115 include both the STS and RR traits together. Terral Seed is releasing TV45R14, TV46R15 and TV48R14 in 2006. However, yield results for these varieties are still in their infancy compared to varieties that we've tested in our variety trials.
After several years and locations with our replicated variety trials, we've seen Asgrow 4903, DeltaKing DK 4868, DK 5161, DP 4546, DP 5110S, Garst D472, Garst D484, Hornbeck 4924, Pioneer Brand 94M70, P94M80, Terral TV48R14 and UA 4805 produce consistently higher yields than their competition. Progeny 4805 and DeltaGrow DG4960 also yielded well in 2005.
“More good varieties are available, especially ones with earlier maturity than those listed above. We just have more results from those I did mention. A complete set of results dating back to 2000 can be found at http://dallas.tamu.edu/soybean .
“As far as inoculants, Nitragin Inc. offers products that make inoculation easier than in years past. With soybean rust lurking, many more fungicides are available now than in 2004. Bayer-CropScience has new seed treatments.”
Question: Any recommended changes in fertility in light of higher fertilizer costs?
A: “Usually, nitrogen (N) fertilizer is not recommended for soybean because of its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. However, even though nitrogen costs are high, soybean fertility issues (even N) are likely to be revisited in 2006 and beyond. Researchers in other Southern states have data suggesting that nitrogen fertilizer boosts yield. Whether costs are recovered seems uncertain.
“As for other elements, everything I've read supports the old idea that a soil test and subsequent applications (based on conventional recommendations) minimize fertility problems. However, on the heavy clay and highly calcareous soil in the North Texas Blacklands, it appears that we still need to learn more about the secrets of optimal fertility.”
Question: Will farmers alter tillage practices, in light of energy costs?
A: “In my limited experience with reduced tillage soybean, yields were similar to full tillage. However, tillage choice is heavily dependent upon what equipment, slope, herbicide spraying options, etc., that each grower faces.”