By Mike Staton
Reducing harvest losses is a simple and effective way to increase soybean yield and profitability. Careful equipment maintenance and operation can keep harvest losses at or below 3%. Surveys conducted in Ohio and Arkansas found that actual harvest losses averaged around 1.5 bushels per acre; other surveys found that harvest losses of 6% (3 bushels per acre) were common. Reducing harvest losses by just 1 bushel per acre will produce more than $11 per acre of additional income this year.
A Soybean Harvest Equipment Field Day is set for Sept. 25 at Schipper Farms near Martin. The following topics and equipment will be discussed and demonstrated: draper heads, auger heads, air-assisted reels, field roller effects on harvest, harvest loss measurements and ground speed effects on harvest losses. There is no charge for the field day or lunch, but attendees are asked to preregister by calling 269-673-0370, ext. 27, before noon on Sept. 20.
Properly timing your harvest operations is critical to reducing harvest losses. Harvest operations can begin any time after the beans have initially dried to 14 to 15% moisture. Under good drying conditions, this will occur five to 10 days after 95% of the pods have reached their mature color. To reduce shatter losses, split seed and cracked seed coats, try to harvest as much of your crop as possible before the moisture level falls below 11%. Shatter losses also increase significantly when mature beans undergo multiple wetting and drying cycles.
Before harvest operations begin, inspect and repair the cutting parts on the combine head. Make sure that all knife sections are sharp and tight. Check the hold-down clips to ensure that they hold the knives within 1/32 inch of the guards. Adjust the wear plates to the point that they lightly touch the backs of the knives.
Information from the University of Arkansas shows that a skilled combine operator, one who understands how losses happen and how to reduce them, can achieve significantly lower harvest losses than an inexperienced operator or one who is trying to hurry or cut corners.