2014 Soybean Harvest: Three Tips Towards a Quality Crop

The 2014 soybean harvest season hasn’t been very cooperative to say the least. Most of the Midwest is experiencing wet conditions, yet – in terms of development – the USDA is calling this crop average. On October 7th, 83% of the soybeans were dropping leaves, just 1% behind the normal pace. Still, harvest remains slow, with only 20% of the crop out of the field compared to the average pace of 35%.

While the physical harvesting of soybeans is restricted, the question becomes: What is happening to the quality of this soybean crop? Here are four tips to consider during this year’s soybean harvest.

1. Moisture
This year left many soybean fields with green leaves and stems. This has led to some tough cutting and flowability issues on some grain tables. Slight green stem syndrome has been found in the Midwest, however, many of the late season rains have “brought back” soybean fields and helped plants retain their leaves. Despite this, moistures have been deceiving, with harvest moistures at 11-15%. Typically, growers will traditionally wait until these green stems fields start to turn. However, yield and seed quality may be reduced, harvest may be delayed, and combining is more difficult.

Key Takeaway: Delaying harvest until green stems mature can result in over-drying and shattering in normal plants.


2. White Mold Issues
White mold hit soybean fields hard in 2014, and areas I traveled in Michigan and Ontario had some of the worst infection I have seen. There are some products on the market that can reduce white mold effect, however starting with basic agronomy is the key to curbing the disease. Proper variety selection, reducing planting population, and opening up row spacing are a few quick ways to decrease effects. Yield reports of some of these fields have spanned the range of 0-100% yield loss.

Key Takeaway: Remembering the disease triangle when trying to beat the disease is key.


3. Shattering
This year the biggest concern during harvest, in my perspective, is shattering. We had many days of heavy dew and rain. With this week of rain forecasted, each time the pod is damp and dries, it weakens the strength of the pod. The key will be to slow our ground speed, run the cutter bar as close as possible to the ground, run the reel at 25% faster than ground speed, and slow the cylinder.

Key Takeaway: The old saying, be quick but don’t hurry definitely applies to cutting beans in 2014.


Finally, there is one more area to consider during this year’s soybean harvest – seed quality. Seed quality can become a concern to some as time progresses. One observation I’ve seen is the green coloring of seed has been found, especially in areas to the north. This can be caused by an earlier than typical frost and regrowth from late season rains. The green color results due to the chlorophyll not having adequate time to dissipate. Though it will catch your eye in the grain tank, the green tint has no negative effects on grain quality.

Best of luck to those of you getting back into soybeans fields after this wet weather.