They say that time flies, and a growing season is no different. It seems like the pandemonium of seed season has just ended, and already in just a few weeks it will be time to begin harvest. Being ready for harvest is just as important as being ready for planting. Taking the time to prepare means being one step closer to taking unplanned adversity in stride, and ensuring your harvest is smooth and stress-free.
Why is a smooth harvest important? Well, aside from the obvious stress factor, harvesting when soybean plants are too dry because of an equipment breakdown, you were too busy in other fields, or the weather rapidly changed will mean a yield loss. Starting harvest when beans are at the correct moisture is essential to both preventing shatter in the field and loss when selling your beans. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: “If you sell soybeans at 8% moisture, you’re losing about 5.43% of your yield; at 9% moisture, it’s 4.4%; at 10% moisture, 3.3%; at 11% moisture, 2.25%; and at 12% moisture, it’s 1.14% yield. For a field that’s yielding 75 bushels/acre at 13% moisture, harvesting it at 9% results in selling 3.3 fewer bushels/acre. With soybeans priced at $10/bushel, that’s a loss of $33 per acre.”
According to this math, that would mean a hypothetical loss of $21,120 per square mile, a staggering loss to any pocketbook. This doesn’t even factor in shatter losses, which are sometimes unavoidable when harvesting dry beans. Timely harvest is a recurring theme that continues to pop up at the end of each growing season, as timing is the quintessential factor to a successful soybean harvest.
Dave Hankey is a soybean grower and seed processor at Hankey Seed Company based in North Dakota. Starting out working with certified wheat more than four decades ago, Hankey Seed has seen a huge influx in the number of soybean producers and soybean crops grown in the Dakotas. Through years of experience working with farmers and growing his own soybean crops, Hankey has come to recognize the importance of time during soybean harvest. “You can never prepare too much, but you need to utilize everything at your disposal including your dealer and your valued employees.”
Hankey also talked about the importance of moisture content in soybeans, and how prioritizing soybean harvest is best practice for your bottom line. “You really need to prioritize the harvest of soybeans,” he says. “As part of our program to produce high-quality seed we definitely emphasize the timely harvest of soybeans.”
Compared to this year’s damp spring, summer has been dry in North Dakota. Hankey warns that dry conditions could cut into profit quite significantly, making timeliness even more important when it comes to 2018’s harvest. “The crop is looking good at the present, but badly in need of timely rain,” he says. “Right now we [soybean growers] are facing low prices, and a poor crop would be devastating financially, so we need some timely rains to finish this crop and limit the damage.”
When it’s time to start harvesting make sure you use lower speeds and to ensure frequent checks are done on headers. Moisture content between soybean fields can be completely different, and shatter losses can occur if combine settings aren’t checked regularly. The same University of Nebraska-Lincoln article cites that “four to five beans left on the ground per square foot can add up to one bushel per acre loss,” which is another staggering statistic to a farmer’s bottom line.
Today’s harvest equipment has the ability to cut fairly low to the ground, ensuring short bushes aren’t leaving any pods behind. Flex headers have been a huge advantage to soybean farmers over the last several years, allowing a better harvest across differing fields. “It has been my experience that all current harvest equipment is very good,” Hankey agrees.
There are many factors that can impact harvest, and only some are in control of the grower. Ensuring you are ready to harvest, and that you know what’s happening in our fields is a great head start.
Dave Hankey leaves us with some last words of advice. “It is a combination of paying attention to details when you are harvesting and being timely that produce the best quality product.”
*University of Nebraska-Lincoln Source Article: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/managing-soybean-harvest-timing-moisture-improve-yield