Michigan Soybeans: Harvest Considerations for Overly Dry Fields

Harvesting dry soybeans: Photo: Mike State, Michigan State University

The higher-than-normal temperatures that are predicted to occur for the rest of September will cause soybeans to dry down rapidly and moisture levels can easily drop below 10%. This increases the potential for shatter losses, higher discounts due to split beans and reduced delivery weight.

When moisture levels fall below 10%, producers will need to decide if they should harvest the overly dry soybeans or wait for rain to add some moisture back into the beans. This is an individual decision. I will try to provide some information in this article that should help guide this decision.

Advantages of continuing to harvest overly dry soybeans:

  • Timely wheat planting.
  • Reduced soil compaction.
  • Fall tillage operations can be competed sooner.

The main advantage of delaying harvest and waiting for rain is the net value of each bushel harvested may be increased (see accompanying table at Source URL below). However, there is some risk associated with this strategy. Harvest losses may increase as soybean pods typically become more brittle with each wetting and drying cycle. Today’s varieties are more resistant to shattering, but the risk increases with repeated wetting and drying cycles.

You should also consider the following factors when making the decision to continue harvesting overly dry soybeans or delaying harvest operations.

What is the calendar date and weather outlook?

  • It is still early in the harvest season and the 6-10 and 8-14 day weather outlooks are projecting a high probability of higher than normal temperatures and slightly above normal precipitation.

How will the soybeans be marketed?

  • Soybeans grown for seed should be harvested at moisture levels near 13 percent to optimize seed quality. The risk of reducing seed quality increases significantly as the moisture level in the seed falls below 10 percent, so seed producers should wait for rain if moisture levels are below 10 percent.
  • Producers growing food-grade or non-GMO soybeans under contract should check with their contractors to get their current recommendations for harvesting this year’s crop. Some contractors want producers to begin harvesting food-grade beans early at moisture contents above 13% this fall to avoid the potential for quality to decline due to the predicted rapid field drying.
  • Producers raising commercial soybeans have no marketing restrictions regarding moisture content as long as the moisture levels are below 18 percent.

Are the fields well drained or poorly drained?

  • Consider harvesting poorly drained fields while soil conditions are optimal.

Can the overly dry soybeans be harvested without excessive shatter losses or splits?

  • Shatter losses can be reduced by beginning harvest operations earlier in the day, reducing ground speed and reel speed and paying close attention to reel position. Most elevators will not assess discounts on loads containing less than 20% split beans.

Do you have the capability to recondition the overly dry soybeans?

This article was produced by a partnership between MSU Extension and the Michigan Soybean Checkoff program.




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