How many more bushels of soybeans could you harvest per acre if you paid attention to harvest losses? Even at $10 per bushel, every bushel lost is $10 out of your pocket.
"Stop, look and count" is the mantra from Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer. He has helped farmers reduce harvest losses for a long time.
"Take time to get out of the combine, look for lost beans and do counts," he says. "See how much you're leaving behind."
Four soybeans per square foot adds up to a bushel of soybeans lost per acre, Hanna says. Most losses occur at the head, so checking in front of the head in a previously harvested area is as important as checking total loss behind the combine.
Here are five ways to lose fewer soybeans, Hanna notes.
1. Look up front first. About 90% of soybean loss occurs at the cutterbar and grain head, Hanna explains.
2. Check cutting height. As a rule of thumb, every inch too high that you run the cutterbar equals one bushel of beans you leave behind.
3. Set reel speed right. If the crop is standing good, let the reel periphery to run about 25% faster than ground speed.
4. Position reel correctly. Normally you want the reel set about 8 to 12 inches in front of the cutterbar.
5. Don't be fooled by green stems. Sometimes grain is dry when stems are green. "If the soybeans are ready to go, then go!" he says. "Harvesting green stems keeps you on your toes, but you can only afford to wait so long."
Hanna typically advises checking in the standing crop if pods are brown but stems are still green. Once you already have one bushel or more loss per acre from beans popping out, it's time to harvest.