If you have farmed long enough, you probably remember a year when you had to wait for a freeze to finish harvesting soybeans. No one wants to relive that nightmare, but a wet early November made it difficult, if not impossible, to harvest soybeans still in the field.
One field that had to wait for harvest was the Soybean Watch ’17 field. Planted June 6, it wasn’t ready before the late-fall rainy spell began. There are reports of farmers with sizable acreages of first-crop soybeans that were not harvested by mid-November, plus double-crop soybeans still awaiting harvest.
Steve Gauck, a Beck’s sales agronomist based in Greensburg, Ind., monitored the Soybean Watch field. Beck’s is the sponsor of Soybean Watch ’17.
Here are six factors that could come into play the longer soybean harvest is delayed, Gauck says.
1. Plants will be tougher to cut. Stems may be soft if they begin to deteriorate. Shorter varieties may remain standing, but some lodging could occur. The bottom line is that just cutting the plants will likely get harder as the season stretches out.
2. Combines will plug more easily. Tougher stems going through the machine means plugging may be more of an issue, Gauck says. It may require paying special attention to the areas of your machine where plugging could most likely happen.
Settings may need to be readjusted compared to when you run earlier in the season. Getting adjustments right to capture as many beans as possible may require extra patience.
3. Pods could shatter as they dry out after being so wet. Deciding when to run the combine may be a balancing act. Shattering and bean loss could be possible since the beans took on moisture with the rains, and then will dry out.
4. Be ready to dry or aerate soybeans. If you decide to harvest at relatively high moisture to get beans out of the field and prevent shattering, be ready to run them through a dryer or to aerate them if you’re keeping them on the farm rather than sending them directly to the elevator.
Remember that soybeans can be touchier to handle without damaging during drying compared to corn.
5. Molds could become an issue. This is more likely if insects damaged pods and created entry points for mold organisms. While you may not have many options for limiting mold, Gauck suggests just being aware that the longer harvest drags out, the greater the odds this could be an issue.
6. Ruts from the combine can affect fields for a long time. No one wants to create ruts if they can avoid it. However, Gary Steinhardt, Purdue University Extension soils specialist, says in years like this, harvesting when conditions aren’t perfect may be a cost of doing business. His point is that at some point, you must get the crop out of the field to avoid further losses in quality or yield.
Just be aware that if you create ruts, soil compaction will likely be an issue next year and in following years in that field, Gauck observes.