Ike Boudreaux was like many Louisiana farmers who waited for Katrina to crash their state. Soybeans, cotton, sugarcane and even rice faced massive flooding and other storm damage.

But Boudreaux, who farms at Lebeau in the south central part of the state, dodged the horrendous hurricane. “We only received 3/8 in. of rain, but I'm not complaining,” says Boudreaux, who grows about 750 acres of beans annually.

His soybeans went on to yield an average or better crop. However, the grower knows that whether it's a hurricane or typical early fall thunderstorm, soybeans can easily become soggy in the South, especially after they have matured and are awaiting the combine.

Rotted seed can result, which can hurt as much as drought or hail-outs in the Midwest.

“We're interested in protecting the crop during harsh weather before harvest,” says Boudreaux, a member of the Louisiana Soybean & Grain Research & Promotion Board. “We've funded studies to help develop hard coat soybeans that will withstand late-season wet conditions.”

While Asian soybean rust might be getting the most attention from the area's research dollars, Boudreaux likes the results of checkoff-funded research through Louisiana State University by Steven Moore, a soybean breeder in Alexandria.

“We continue to look for better post-harvest maturity that prevents damage to the seed from rain-delayed harvest,” says Moore. “Hard seeded soybean lines developed in the USDA Soybean Breeding Program directed by the late Edgar Hartwig in Mississippi were tested in Louisiana and retained more than 90% germination when harvested two months late.”

Using another source of resistance out of the same USDA program, Moore developed lines that are late Group V or early Group VI material. “Good yields have been recorded, with some lines surpassing 50 bu./acre,” he says.

“When tested against the very low number of conventional Group V varieties in the Louisiana commercial variety tests, these lines have finished in first or second place. One line harvested 49 bu./acre and numerically topped the test on the Macon Ridge in 2005. The strong yields indicate that the lines can be competitive.”

Although the lines have selected for hard seed, Moore and his associates are still measuring the degree of weathering resistance in these lines.

“Heat, drought and/or perhaps disease seem to have seriously affected seed quality in this test conducted on a heavy soil last year (2005),” he says “The degree of weathering resistance in these new lines is yet to be determined. Another major concern with the lines that have now been developed is crinkled seed coats which seems to increase with hot and dry conditions.”

Moore looked to have good measurements of seed quality, weathering resistance, and crinkled seed coats by year's end. “If we identify a line with good seed characteristics, coupled with good yields, then we may seek to release a germplasm line for breeding,” says Moore.

“We have an agreement with Monsanto to use its glyphosate-resistant gene in our program and have begun crossing Roundup-resistant material with another hard-seeded parent where we expect better seed quality. Although we're early in the program, we hope to develop commercially viable material.”

High yielding, weather-resistant lines may be a tremendous help for growers in years where rain sets in and delays harvest due to greatly superior retention of seed quality

The seed should benefit Louisiana, Mississippi and other southern growers who can face late-season deluges that dump a foot of rainfall in a matter of hours when harvest is under way.

“The late-season rains are among the reasons many growers are planting earlier-maturing varieties in the Group III, IV and early V range,” says Boudreaux. “The hard coat soybeans should be a good addition to our rotations.”