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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Soybean Production Woes Continue into Harvest

September 26, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Soybean harvest, as one Ohio State University Extension agronomist describes it, will be "slow and painful" for Ohio growers.

The poor condition of the crop, associated with a wet spring, late planting and a hot, dry summer, will pose a challenge for Ohio growers who will be in full harvest swing by the first week of October.

"Harvest is going to be difficult this year. It will be slow and aggravating," said Jim Beuerlein. "The crop didn't get planted as early as usual because of the wet weather, which created compaction. And then we followed compaction with drought and that was two disasters back to back." Beuerlein said stressed plants develop poorly, growing smaller than normal and retaining moisture that makes harvest more difficult.

"Plants will be a lot smaller so they are not going to feed into the grain table as well as larger plants would," he said. "Perhaps the cutter bar (on the combine) will have to run closer to the ground and a grower will have to drive a little slower than normal." Stressed plants also tend to maintain green stems, although the grain is ready to be harvested.

"The green stems add moisture to the residue going through the combine. It's hard to do a good job separating the residue from the grain when there's moisture because they tend to stick together so you get pods and pieces of pods in with the grain," said Beuerlein. "The grain will also be smaller, so it may be necessary to keep the air turned down so it doesn't blow grain out the back of the combine. This allows for more residue to stay in with the grain, so we are probably going to have more foreign matter mixed in with the grain than normal." Beuerlein said some soybean varieties are also shattering their seed, a stress condition whereby the pods crack open due to constant wetting and drying and the grain falls out.

"We've had some rains recently and the pods that didn't develop normal are lighter and thinner and crack open easier under a lot of wetting and drying," said Beuerlein. "The grain falls out on the ground and it's basically a matter of just not being able to get the grain into the combine." According to Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, over 50 percent of the state's soybean crop is rated in poor to very poor condition, a statistic that has stayed with the crop for more than three weeks. As of the September 12 crop production report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting average soybean yields in Ohio to be 33 bushels per acre, down from 36 bushels per acre the month earlier. Ohio averaged 41 bushels per acre in 2001.

"I'm still predicting an average yield in the low 30s," said Beuerlein. "We have really good fields of beans in the southern part of the state, but unfortunately, the southern half of the state only accounts for about 25 percent of our soybeans. Most of the soybeans are in the northern half of the state and that's the part that got hammered by the drought." Beuerlein said early-harvested fields are averaging 10 bushels to 30 bushels per acre. Many fields may average 30 bushels to 40 bushels per acre, with some peaking at 60 bushels per acre, Beuerlein said.

"We'll probably end up at 75 percent of our normal yields as an average for this year," he said.

Candace Pollock
Jim Beuerlein