As combines in the Midwest are rolling, it is important to understand what contributes to soybean harvest losses and how farmers can minimize the impact. Because soybeans dry very quickly, close monitoring of moisture is required for a successful harvest. Additionally, combines should be properly adjusted, frequently checked and carefully operated to minimize losses.
Soybeans should be harvested once they reach 13-14% moisture. Moistures above 13% incur a price discount, but moistures below 13% result in less weight at the elevator. The loss of saleable weight can be more substantial than typical discounts for higher moisture, so growers should avoid delivering overdry soybeans. To help combat losses at the elevator, farmers should begin checking grain moisture before all the leaves have dropped.
When harvest is delayed, the risk of losses increases. Soybeans at harvest stage lose and reabsorb moisture readily, and after several such cycles of wetting and drying, are predisposed to shatter. In addition, delayed harvest often results in losses from increased lodging and reduced quality.
Though the type of equipment used can impact harvest loss, all equipment must be properly adjusted and carefully operated to minimize those losses. Soybeans that never see the inside of a combine can account for as much as 85% of harvest losses. These losses occur due to shatter, lost stalks at the header or those left on stubble below the cut-height. Other losses occur due to improper threshing and separation at the cylinder and screens.