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Some soybean fields losing the battle against Ohio's drought

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Written Tuesday, August 07, 2007  

Like Ohio’s corn crop, soybeans are reaching a stage of development where current drought conditions could impact yields.

Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, said some fields, specifically throughout west and northwest Ohio, are already losing the battle against the dry conditions.

“We are at the edge of the cliff ready to fall off, and some have already fallen off. I would say probably 5 or 10 percent of the soybean crop will not be harvested, or if it is harvested, yields will be very low,” said Beuerlein, who holds a partial research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. “As we go from pod setting to pod filling throughout August and September, I expect that percentage to grow.”

According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, soybeans are nearly 75 percent in fair to excellent condition, compared to 83 percent this time last year. Nearly half the crop is setting pods. In the coming weeks, the crop will be filling those pods, and rainfall during that time will be critical for yields. Despite recent showers across the state that brought relief to some areas, the crop still needs water.

“How well the crop fills those pods depends on the weather from now until harvest. If we don’t get the rain the crop needs, those plants are going to abort their pods and we’ll end up with very poor yields,” said Beuerlein. “The rain certain parts of the state received the last week of July helped tremendously, but we need, on average, an inch to an inch and a half of rain per week to end up with decent yields.”

Beuerlein said that the soybean crop will use up to a quarter to a third of an inch of water a day. As less water becomes available, the plant’s leaves will wilt just to maintain primary growth functions, and other aspects of production, such as pod filling, will suffer.

“It’s much better for crops to be dry early in the season and receive water late in the season, rather than the other way around,” said Beuerlein. “The most important part of crop production is in August and September, and to not have the necessary water just to keep that plant alive, is going to impact production. What growers are facing right now does not paint a pretty picture.”

For the latest updates on Ohio’s soybean crop, log on to OSU Extension’s Agronomic Crops Team Web site at http://agcrops.osu.edu .

The soybean is Ohio’s No. 1 field crop commodity, generating over $1 billion to the agricultural industry, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Soybeans are grown in Ohio for a wide variety of uses -- from grain to food to renewable energy production.

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