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Early Freeze Hurts Northern Plains Soybean Crop

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(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – Last week’s early frost and freeze in some pockets of the northern Plains halted the growing season of an already immature soybean crop, but farmers say the damage does not appear to be widespread.

A hard freeze of below 28 degrees in South Dakota’s Brown County killed nearly all of the soy fields he visited from the Spink County line to the North Dakota border, Ron Dodds, an agronomist with the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, said Tuesday.

The cold, wet spring prevented farmers from getting their plants in the ground on time, so this year’s soy plants were forced to do a lot of growing the same time they were trying to bloom and set pods. The plants were already two weeks behind in maturity when a freeze arrived, which happened about two weeks earlier than normal, said Dodds, whose agency is part of a federally funded program that aims to translate agricultural research into practical help for farmers and the larger public.

“It’s going to make for a long tedious harvest. Growers are going to have to be very patient,” he said.

Soybeans were planted on 77.4 million acres in the U.S. in 2010 and produced 3.3 billion bushels of beans, according to the USDA. The average price paid to farmers was $11.70 per bushel, resulting in a total 2010 crop value of more than $38.9 billion.

Damage from the early freeze has also been reported in surrounding states, but it appears to be limited to small pockets and the effect on yields will not be known until harvest.

Jeff Hamre, the executive director of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, estimated that the damage in that state would affect would less than 5 percent of the state’s soybean production.

“It got pretty cold down here and enough to do some damage, more so than we were anticipating. But most of our beans have made it. They might be a little bit smaller pea size than we’d like to have,” Hamre said.

There was a partial frost across most of Minnesota, but the extent of it varies quite a bit, said Gene Stoel, chairman of the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

In the southwest portion of the state where Stoel farms soybeans and corn, damage to soy plants was limited to the tops. Some stalks and the lower canopies of the bean plants remain green, he said.

“We really won’t know for sure until we get it out of the field but I’m sure there was some damage,” he said.

Grant Kimberley, director of market development for the Iowa Soybean Association, said some farmers in northern tier counties reported damage to the tops of plants, but damage was somewhat isolated.

Frost damage in Nebraska was limited to the far northeast portion of the state and it was “marginal,” said Victor Bohuslavsky, executive director of the Nebraska Soybean Board. He said the recent cold weather has been having a greater effect on Nebraska farmers by slowing the beans’ maturity and delaying harvest.

“A lot of years we’ve been combining by now, and there’s nothing moving,” Bohuslavsky said.

The effects on yield will not be known until harvest, but farmers will need to be careful to check for moisture because the beans might be wetter than they appear, Dodds said. He said combines will also wind up picking up a lot of plant material among the soybeans, which will require extra cleaning.

In Lennox, where Dave Poppens, farms about 1,000 acres of soybeans on his 3,000-acre family farm, the temperature last week dropped to around 30 degrees.

That killed the top portions of his plants, so he’ll likely end up with smaller beans that will have a small effect on yield

“The beans on the top are going to be smaller,” he said. “The bottom part of the point is still taking up moisture that those beans will fill out and mature.”

Poppens said a neighbor took out some early beans and was registering a bushel yield in the mid-40s.

“We’d be quite pleased with that if that’s where the beans end up at,” he said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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