Producers' potential earnings can drop along with soybean moisture content if beans get too dry before harvest, warns Paul Jasa, a University of Nebraska ag engineer.
To keep soybeans at the desired 13% moisture content – and to reduce other risks – harvest them soon after they reach maturity, says Jasa.
"It seems soybeans can never be too high in moisture," Jasa says. Even with recent rains across most of Nebraska, there's still the chance that soybean moisture content will be too low. The greatest potential problem will be in areas that have been abnormally dry. Pods that dry out also are more likely to shatter or fall off during harvest.
Shattering can cause yield losses that easily can exceed 10%. Say a field yields 50 bu/acre, losing 10% or five bu/acre from shattering. At $5/bu, that means a $25/acre loss.
"There are a lot of green fields still out there that need three to four weeks of growing," Jasa says. However, where soybeans are below 16% moisture, producers may want to start harvesting soybeans and hold off on corn, which doesn't lose as much moisture as do soybeans.
Jasa recommends that producers adjust their combines to handle the green stems and then frequently readjust as beans dry down.
To reduce shatter losses, harvest as soon as soybeans reach14% moisture content. If storing soybeans in a bin, start soybeans at 16% moisture and aerate to dry them to 13%.
It also may be helpful to harvest overly dried soybeans after a rain or in the morning, when pods are damp from dew. Beans also may have a slightly higher moisture content. Because shatter losses are higher after several drying cycles of the pods, it may not be best to wait for moisture to get the beans wetter.
Most grain elevators dock producers for soybeans with more than 13% moisture. However, Jasa saya, it's more economical to take the dockage for beans with 14% moisture than to face the income loss of selling beans at 11%.