Louisiana was the first state to wrap up soybean harvest for the week ending Oct. 29, and remains the only state to have finished harvesting soybeans for the week ending Nov. 5, USDA reports.
Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, says that heat and drought resulted in some poor yields for the state’s first batch of soybeans, averaging 10 to 12 bushels per acre (bpa). Overall, Strain says the quality of the beans were good, but yields in some parts of the state were in the single digits.
Currently, Louisiana is suffering from the worst drought conditions in the nation, says Strain. According to the latest drought monitor map published on Nov. 2, nearly 68% of the state is in D4 exceptional drought. Twenty percent of the state is facing D3 extreme drought, 6% is in D2 severe drought, 5% is in D1 moderate drought, and 1% is abnormally dry. Less than 1% of Louisiana’s acres are drought free.
While Louisiana does plant their soybeans earlier than other states, Strain says that the rapid harvest of the state’s crops this year was a result of extremely dry conditions.
Strain says, had it not been for the intense drought, it would have been a “bountiful year” for Louisiana farmers because some commodity prices were good and there were no hurricanes to negatively impact the crops.
“For the first time not a single tropical storm or hurricane hit the coast or came inland,” Strain says, which has led the state to unusually dry conditions.
However, yields varied dramatically statewide, Strain says, from single digits up to 55 bpa with some irrigated soybeans.
Garrett Marsh, the director of Louisiana at the United Soybean Board and a farmer from Tallulah, Louisiana, says that it wasn’t the drought as much as the heat that impacted the state’s soybeans and other crops.
Marsh confirms statewide yields were incredibly “sporadic.” He says he’s heard that some farmers from further south in the state received good rains, but their soybeans didn’t yield because of the heat.
“It didn’t matter if it was irrigated or not,” Marsh says, “it just kind of depended on the heat more than the drought.”
Marsh says that Louisiana soybean farmers do typically aim for an earlier harvest because they get a premium on any soybeans they harvest at the beginning of the season. That premium rate lasts until Midwestern farmers start their soybean harvest, Marsh says. Louisiana was among the first states to complete soybean harvest last year, as well as in 2021 and 2019.
On his own farm, Marsh says that some timely rains helped keep yields up for most of his soybean acres, but his yields were still down significantly from a normal year. He says he averaged about 50 bpa, compared to the mid-to-low 60 bpa he yields across the farm on average.
“Some [soybeans were] cutting 80 and 90 bpa in the irrigated stuff,” Marsh says, “and some I had to fail.”
Now that harvest is over for the season, Marsh says that, because there hasn’t been any significant rain since June, farmers have been able to do work in the fields that they’ve been putting off for years. Usually Marsh says that fall rains leave farmers having to do work in their shops until they can get back into the fields.
USDA’s Crop Progress report for the week ending Oct. 29 shows that Louisiana finished harvesting soybeans by 4% ahead of their five-year average. For the week ending Nov. 5, Louisiana’s five-year average for soybean harvest was 98%. No other states have completed soybean harvest for the 2023 season, with Mississippi’s soybean crop 98% harvested.
Nationally, 91% of the country’s soybeans have been harvested. This is ahead of the five-year average of 86%, but behind last year at this time by 2%. Last year at this time, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Dakota had all completed soybean harvest.