How the Asian soybean rust discovery in Louisiana will affect the agricultural outlook for the state in 2005 is difficult to predict.
"The initial fear has given way to a more wait-and-see attitude," said Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter agricultural economist who watches the soybean situation closely. "There are many uncertainties about how this disease will react."
Soybeans are planted on more land in Louisiana than any other crop. In 2004, about a million acres were planted in soybeans, slightly up from the year before. The trend, however, has been downward in numbers of acres over the past 20 years.
Average soybean yields, however, have been going up in Louisiana, although they still remain lower than in the Midwest, where more than half of U.S. soybeans are grown.
The state average in 2004 was slightly above 30 bushels per acre, whereas nationwide the average yield is above 40 bushels per acre. 2004 was a record production year for soybeans in the United States.
With estimated costs for managing rust, Louisiana producers who cannot consistently generate yields higher than 30 bushels per acre are going to find it difficult to generate positive returns, Guidry said.
"Soybean production on marginal land or in areas that historically have lower than 30-bushel yields will be affected most by this disease," Guidry said.
Most of the state’s soybeans are grown in the northeastern and central regions of the state. They also are grown in the Southwest primarily as a rotation crop with rice.
According to LSU AgCenter figures for value to the state’s economy in 2004, soybeans contributed about $241 million whereas sugarcane contributed about $496 million and cotton, about $295 million. These figures include value-added by further processing in the state.
Linda Foster Benedict
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture