Soybean prices may be a bit higher this year than last, but, with the 2011 harvest almost complete, average yields are down to half of what they were last year, Hillsboro Cooperative Grain and Supply grain coordinator Dick Tippin said Thursday.
“The drought had some effect,” Tippin said. “Soybean yields are low this year, averaging around 15 bushels per acre. Last year we had around 30.”
Lewis Unruh of Peabody planted 500 acres of soybeans this year.
“My tickets ranged from five bushels per acre to 15,” Unruh said. “I did have one field along the 13-mile road that produced 21.5 bushels per acre, but that was unusual.”
Unruh said he planted rye as a cover crop in the high yielding field and that may have made the difference.
“In late spring I thought this probably wasn’t a good thing to do, with the drought,” he said. “I thought the rye would take all the moisture, but instead the extra cover, the mulch it produced, reduced wind speed at the ground surface and that reduced evaporation.”
Unruh said he was repeating the rye cover experiment and, in mid-September, planted several acres with an eye to next year. The un-harvested rye creates a better environment for grain production plants planted later by creating more biological activity and leaving beneficial residue in the soil.
“I’ve heard about doing this at extension meetings,” Unruh said. “But like most of farming, what works one year might not work the next. We’ll see.”
Rural Hillsboro farmer Dallas Jost planted 80 acres of soybeans this year and harvested most of it last week. He still had some double-cropped acreage standing in the field.
“I averaged around 15 bushels per acre,” he said. “The moisture content hurt me a bit, but I enjoy farming and just wish I could do it full time.”
Jost works full time at AGCO in Hesston. He farms family ground homesteaded by his grandfather, John B. Jost, southwest of Hillsboro.
Jost and Unruh sold their soybean harvest this year, instead of holding and storing it for later market.
Farmers who harvest and take their grain to cooperatives in the county have a choice of selling right away or storing the grain for later use or sale.
“We store the grain here and then, when it’s sold, ship it to Cargill in Wichita or Bunge in Emporia,” Tippin said.
Both facilities crush the beans into fine meal for use in high-protein livestock feed mixes. Most of the soybeans produced in Marion County stay in the state as livestock filler or feed.
To help farmers decide if they want to sell or store their grain, Tippin monitors grain prices from short-term market sources such as Commodity Brokers, Team Marketing, and Advanced Traders.
“We take the overnight trade results and try to predict what the prices will do for the next day,” he said.
Prices for soybeans in October 2010 were $11.28 per bushel while this year they hover at $11.65.
“We don’t have the same kind of cyclical trends in the markets that we used to have four or five years ago,” Tippin said. “Prices depend more on the European financial crisis or South American and Chinese markets.”
He also said funds investors drive the market, making it more difficult to predict long-term trends.
Tippin said it was also difficult to predict how the local milo harvest would go, as early yields were coming in across the board.
“We’ve had anywhere from 10 to 50 bushels per acre already,” he said. “We have had more light test weights this year than others, but some late milo won’t be in until mid-November.”