OSU's Josh Lofton Reports More Farmers Turning to Soybeans Amid Persistently Low Wheat PricesThu, 16 May 2019 15:15:46 CDT
The landscape of Oklahoma’s agriculture industry has seen some rapid changes lately. Soybean production, traditionally limited to the northeast quadrant of the state, has dramatically expanded in a relatively short time span with even higher increases in acres expected to occur next year. During the recent Lahoma Wheat Field Day hosted by Oklahoma State University Extension, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays sat down to talk about Oklahoma’s growing soybean presence with OSU Assistant Professor and Cropping Systems Specialist Josh Lofton. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“Soybean acres have been growing substantially over the last few years and while the commodity price still isn’t great, it’s better than some of the alternatives,” Lofton said. “We’ve seen a lot of producers even in our traditional corridor growing soybeans. But the biggest thing, is we’ve seen a lot of folks in north central, northwest Oklahoma start picking up soybeans.”
In fact, Oklahoma’s largest soybean growth has occurred in the north central area of the state. Lofton says that as more farmers adopt soybeans as part of their operations, they are now having to acquaint themselves with new agronomic practices to ensure a successful crop in light of the evolution that modern soybean production systems have undergone over the last decade.
“We’ve seen new genetics and new technology come in, new systems, new area,” he said. “So, we’ve got a lot of new things to our soybean production system.”
One important aspect of that which Lofton highlighted to producers during the Field Day, was how to determine the most efficient plant population. He mentioned that with commodity prices so low currently and the price of seed elevated, plant population can have a meaningful impact on a producer’s bottom line. In addition, he says one of the biggest yield robbers to pay attention to are insects. Once plants go into their reproductive stage, they become particularly exposed to the threat of infestation by a number of pests. Controlling pests can be very beneficial to the success of a crop, Lofton says, and easy to do, though scouting for them can be difficult.
Lofton also strongly encourages producers to start clean. By investing in a pre-plant herbicide, he says not only will you start clean, you will end clean as well and contends the right herbicide can be “worth its weight in gold” to a producer - that and a good inoculum.
“The biggest thing I tell people is that we’ve seen a five to seven bushel increase with adding inoculum to your seed and making sure you get good nodulation,” he advised. “Really, it’s a cheap input and it’s a great safety net. If it provides you a couple bushels it’s already paid for itself.”
Historically, wheat has always been Oklahoma’s largest crop. However, due to depressed prices in the market, Lofton says more and more farmers are making the switch to soybeans, which at present seem to pencil out better than wheat as are some of the other summer crops right now. Lofton asserts that wheat remains critical to Oklahoma’s ag economy but says rotational cropping has more benefits beyond the scope of the current market situation.
“Having a good rotational crop elevates our wheat. It elevates it’s quality and quantity on our wheat yield and just helps serve our state better,” Lofton concluded, adding that canola also makes a great option that pairs with wheat as well.
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