Farming is a risky occupation, and farmers can always use techniques, equipment and varieties that reduce or spread out the risks.
Using early maturing soybeans is one way farmers can help spread out their risks, says Dr. Walter Mayhew, an area agronomist for the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas.
The use of these varieties is still relatively limited. About 75,000 acres of the state's 3.4million acre crop in 1994 were planted in early varieties. But acceptance is growing, Mayhew said.
The agronomist noted that early maturing varieties were brought to Arkansas in the mid-1980s.
"The goal was to plant them early and have them produce their seed by mid-July," Mayhew said. 'Traditiontally the driest part of the summer is the last two weeks of July and the month of August."
The theory was that by planting these varieties early, farmers could have their crop made before the six weeks of dry weather hit.
"That has proved to be pretty much true," Mayhew said. "The indeterminant Group IVs planted early will produce at least 20 bushels an acre in most years. However, they can do quite a bit better - 30 to 40 bushels, depending on rainfall."
Part of the problem farmers run into with early varieties is that if they plant them very early, such as in April, the harvest of those soybeans can interfere with rice harvest. If they are planted in late May and early June and irrigated, they will produce exceptional yields and come out right after rice harvest.
Since Group IV soybeans planted in late May or early June mature right after rice harvest, farmers may only be idle a day or two after rice harvest before beginning soybean harvest.
Mayhew said that a number of farmers are trading in two midsize combines for a larger combine that has almost as much capacity as the two smaller ones together. The larger combine will spend more days of the yerar in the held than the two combines, which is a better use of equipment. Planting Group IV soybeans can help spread out the harvest period, Mayhew said.
"Another advantage of early maturing soybeans is that you can typically harvest the crop without rutting fields. If you're going to use no-till the next spring, or you're going to plant wheat in the fall, these varieties allow you to do that without much field preparation."
Early maturing varieties offer farmers a viable management a viable management option, Mayhew said.
"Farmers should look at them as a way to diversify and spread out the risks of drought and as a better use of their equipment and labor."
He said that while Group III and Group IV varieties came from the Midwest, many private companies are breeding early varieties for the South.