COLUMBUS, Ohio — If there's one thing soybean growers can do to get the most out of their drought-stressed crop, it's harvest as soon as the beans reach optimum moisture levels.
Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, said that soybean growers shouldn't sit on their harvest. "Farmers need to start harvesting when the crop gets down to 17 percent to 19 percent moisture, and they need to harvest as fast as possible," said Beuerlein. "Every time the crop gets wet and then dries down, you lose test weights and grain quality. And don't wait until the crop gets down to 8 percent or 10 percent moisture because you do a lot of damage to the grain in the harvesting and handling processes."
According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, less than 20 percent of the crop has been harvested so far. Thirty-five percent of the crop was harvested by this same time last year. Projected average yield as of Sept. 1 was 44 bushels per acre, slightly down from last year.
"We are expecting some fields to have fantastic yields and other fields to have poor yields depending on when the crops were planted and how much rain they got during the summer," said Beuerlein. "I've heard yields are already ranging from 20 bushels per acre to has high as 70 bushels per acre. So it's all over the board."
Beuerlein estimates that about 10 percent to 15 percent of the state's soybean crop is going to produce poor yields due to lack of adequate rainfall during the growing season. "The rest of the state is going to be either average or above average. The crop is not going to be as good as last year, but better than normal," he said.
In some places where the crop received too much rain, lodging might be a problem.
"Normally 30 inches is a good height for soybeans, but excessive rainfall in certain areas and warmer-than-normal temperatures have caused some plants to grow like crazy," said Beuerlein. "We are seeing a lot of plants that are chest high — 4.5 feet high. Because of that there's a potential for lodging and that's going to slow down harvest."
Soybean growers also faced insect populations this year, specifically the soybean aphid, which required them to make late-season spray applications.
"For those of you who had to spray narrow-row soybeans for soybean aphids or other insect problems, or make a late herbicide application, you in all likelihood ran down soybean rows as the sprayer went through the field," said Ron Hammond, an Ohio State University research entomologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio.
Hammond encourages growers to consider skip-row production for next year's season as a way of increasing profits and spraying late-season fields without destroying part of the crop. For more information on skip-row production, log on to http://ohioline.osu.edu/agf-fact/0131.html.