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Small & shattering soybeans causing harvest losses

Jeff Caldwell 10/03/2012 @ 3:28pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Soybean harvest is rolling right along. But, one issue's starting to pop up in parts of the Midwest where conditions have been driest throughout the growing season.

Ohio State University Extension soybean specialist Laura Lindsey reported this week more soybean farmers in Ohio are starting to encounter more soybeans left in the field, either from pods shattering or plants being shorter than normal.

"The extreme weather conditions this growing season are affecting soybean harvest. Soybean plants are shorter than normal resulting in pods that are closer to the ground," Lindsey says in a university report. "Additionally, some Ohio growers are also noticing soybean pod shattering during harvest. Shattering is more likely to occur when pods are formed under drought conditions and re-wet later in the season. Short plants and shattering pods can increase harvest losses."

If you're encountering shattering pods, there's not a whole lot you can do to avoid losses. But, if it's shorter-than-normal plants that are causing the trouble, you may be able to adjust your combine to accommodate for the smaller size, says Iowa State University Extension ag engineer Mark Hanna.

"If biomass amounts are smaller, concave clearance may need to be decreased to allow adequate traction to pull material though the threshing area. Check the grain tank for splits and seed coat cracks. Use only enough rotor speed and only narrow enough concave clearance as required for grain quality and throughput. Low yield areas in some fields may keep plant stems green when beans and pods are mature and ready for combine harvest. These conditions require more attention to adjust aggressiveness of threshing (speed, clearance) for adequate threshing and throughput without causing green discoloration to soybeans," Hanna says in a university report. "Smaller soybeans require slightly narrower sieve openings in the cleaning shoe. Fan speed may be reduced if soybeans are blown out the back. Extremely small soybeans may be brittle during threshing and challenging to clean."

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