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Weather forces soybean delays in the Miss-Lou

NATCHEZ — Area farmers may be in for a wild ride during this year’s soybean season.

Local farmer Noble Guedon said heavy April rains caused a delay in planting for many area farmers. National Weather Service data shows some areas of the Miss-Lou received 20 inches of rain during the last three months, 4 inches higher than the region’s 16-inch average.

The optimal time to plant soybeans is early to mid-April, Guedon said, but excess rain caused area farmers to plant in late April and May.

“We had to wait for our fields to dry up,” Guedon said.

The late planting pushes back the harvesting window, and may expose plants to severe weather such as hurricanes, Angelina Plantation farmer Shannon Gray said.

“So far this season has been hectic,” Gray said. “We got a few of our soybeans in the ground early, but most of them were planted late because of heavy rain in April. The late planting pushes back when we can harvest and may expose the plants to weather problems.”

Hurricane season reaches its peak in September. If harvesting is delayed until late August or early September, a severe storm could ruin the soybean crop, Gray said.

A few of Gray’s other concerns include: hotter-than-normal weather, an excess of insect and bug problems due to heavy rainfall and the potential for a lack of rain during the summer.

Farmers such as Guedon are in a unique situation, he said. His family farms in the Mississippi River’s backwater.

“The Louisiana guys are protected by the levee, but we farm on the east and don’t have that protection,” he said. “Because of that, our fields have been affected by flooding.”

Problems during the soybean season shouldn’t be taken lightly, according to the LSU AgCenter.

LSU AgCenter’s annual summary of agriculture and natural resources places a $45 million value on all soybean production in Concordia Parish, making it the parish’s largest plant enterprise. According to the summary, 131 producers farm more than 79,000 acres in Concordia Parish.

A lackluster soybean season may drain millions of dollars from the local economy, LSU AgCenter extension agent Sara Nuss said.

“Soybeans are big business here,” Nuss said. “A large group of people make their living off of farming in the parish.”

Though he hopes for a productive year, uncertainty is expected in the farming industry, Guedon said.

“Farming is a very risky business,” he said. “Even the best-laid plans can go wrong when mother nature comes in and shows who’s boss.”