By 2015 soybeans ranked third among Mississippi’s agricultural commodities, trailing only poultry and forestry, with a value of $930 million. That number actually represented a significant decline from 2014, when the state’s soybean crop was valued at a record $1.3 billion. In 2015 Mississippi’s farmers planted 2.3 million acres of soybeans and harvested more than 100 million bushels.
Soybeans have high nutritional value for humans as well as for livestock. They are a good source of plant protein (with cultivars varying between about 38 and 42 percent) and oil (18 and 22 percent). Most soybeans produced in Mississippi are exported. Soy meal (the by-product of oil crushing) provides a major source of food for livestock, poultry, and catfish, all of which are important industries in Mississippi.
Soybeans became a vital crop in Mississippi and the rest of the mid-South in the late 1940s, when Dr. Edgar Hartwig, the Father of Soybeans in the South, came to Mississippi. He was credited with breeding 90 percent of the pest-resistant soybean varieties grown in the region through the mid-1980s. Most of his varieties were designed to be planted in early to mid-June or later and harvested in late October to mid-November.
In the early 1990s soybean varieties that could be planted earlier in the year were introduced. Some soybean varieties were planted in April, an early soybean production system that gradually became the recommended practice. A few varieties are also grown on nonirrigated fields to take advantage of early maturity and avoid late-summer drought stress. Soybean yield has subsequently improved greatly, and soybeans also have been used in double-cropping systems (mostly with wheat) in Mississippi.
Numerous soybean varieties are available on the market each year, making selection a very challenging task for an individual farmer. Like most other row crops, soybeans grown in Mississippi have problems with weeds, diseases, and insects. Some of the most common weeds in Mississippi soybean fields are prickly sida, morning glories, sesbania, and annual grasses. Herbicides are commonly used for soybean weed control.
The Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board is a grower association that focuses on promoting soybean research, production, marketing, and use.
- Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board website, mssoy.org
- Mississippi State University, Extension Service website, www.msucares.com