By Larry Dreiling

A late freeze has reduced soybean production expectations over much of the High Plains.

Kansas is no exception. According to a production report of the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service, the state's soybean crop is expected to total 59.4 million bushels as of Oct. 1, 13% below Sept. 1 estimates and 27% below last year's crop.

Acreage for harvest is expected to total 2.7 million acres, 150,000 acres below Sept. 1 and 100,000 acres below last year. Yields are expected to average 22 bushels per acre, two bushels below Sept. 1 and seven bushels below 1999.

Still those figures are much higher than just a few years ago. Soybeans on the High Plains then could be considered a rare sight, something usually toward the eastern climes of Kansas, as well as Missouri, eastern Nebraska and Iowa.

Changes in agronomic technology and farm policy have made soybean production a worthwhile proposition for some growers.

Larry Mott, a Finney County, KS, producer, is--along with his father, Melvin, and brothers Clint and Mark--a good example of mixing new technology along with traditional methods.

The Motts, long-time irrigated producers, near Pierceville, KS, switched to Roundup Ready soybean varieties three years ago. The new seed and herbicide have taken much of the strain out of producing a crop.

"When you get right down to it," Mott says, " I now have just three input costs--seeds, water and Roundup. That is pretty much it. With the inception of Roundup Ready soybeans, we have had really good luck in a double-crop (wheat followed by soybeans) situation."

The Motts have 10 center pivots. While most are used for corn production, they have a circle each of soybeans and grain sorghum. The family also runs about 40 acres of hay for haylage and operates a small feedlot.

The Motts' pivots are powered by natural gas. Some well receive gas directly off the wellhead, while others are off a pipeline.

"With gas prices being up the way the are--nearly doubling--it sure is tough," Mott says. "It may come off your wellhead, but you still have to pay for it. We haven't had to (install pumps on gas wells to insure adequate pressure) yet, we still have the pressure, at least so far. We have Valley and Zimmatic pivots. They are both good; it was just a matter of what was the best deal at the time we bought them."

A dealer in Asgrow seeds, Mott planted Asgrow AG4402 Roundup Ready soybeans June 24, following the harvest of his Jagger wheat, on a 127-acre patch under a center pivot.

"In years past, we grew cool-season and doublecrop beans," Mott says. "The problem before was that on doublecrop beans, the chemicals you had to use for weed control would slow down the beans by 10 days to two weeks. In a double-crop situation, you can't do that."

Mott also saw uneven control of problems in his soybeans prior to using Roundup Ready varieties.

"In the past, you had one chemical that would work pretty good on pigweed, but not on grasses," Mott says. "Or, you would have one which would work on grass, but not on pigweed. You had to decide what program you wanted, because the total chemical was damaging to the beans.

"There were a lot of times where we would have to get roguers out here to take out the weeds. It was a cost of $7 up $13 per acre, depending on the time of year and who was available. With Roundup Ready, one bushel pretty well put them out of business. Roundup Ready soybeans have made the problem of weed control nonexistent. Normally, we get by with two applications of two ounces an acre. It controls everything in one pass. With Roundup, you don't have the problems," he says.

There is one problem which keep many producers from planting Roundup Ready seeds--consumer rejection. Mott certainly doesn't reject them--at least not right now.

"We haven't had any problem getting rid of them yet," Mott says. "We will continue to plant them. But if it ever does become a problem, then, as far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't plant beans, because I would have to go back to the old way of doing things. As a seed dealer, my customers tell me they won't plant anything but Roundup Ready seeds.

"As a matter of fact, with the price of corn, the water situation and the price of natural gas being what they are, I think you will see more beans being planted in the future," he says.

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