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Harvest prep underway

Article cover photo
Fewer growing degree days, coupled with late planting in much of the state this year, means extra considerations when it comes to harvesting soybeans according to ISA agronomists. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

While some Iowa farmers have started harvest, others are weeks away. A rain delay in much of the state this week is the perfect opportunity to chip away at a to-do list. Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) District 9 Director Pat Swanson, a farmer and crop insurance agent from Ottumwa, shares some things to think about as it relates to this year’s crop:

  • Planning to comingle old-crop and new-crop soybeans or corn? Call your crop insurance agent first. “An adjuster needs to appraise or measure how many bushels are in storage before you add the new crop. We need to know how much of last year’s crop you had in storage before we can file a future claim,” Swanson said.
  • Add your crop insurance agent to your key contacts. Crop quality could be a concern if wet weather persists. Wet conditions mid-harvest last year split pods and rotted soybeans. Elevators docked loads due to quality concerns. If a weather event occurs and you suspect an effect on crop quality, Swanson says to call your agent.
  • Suspect crop damage due to chemical drift from other operators? Call your crop insurance agent to note it on your production record. “The federal crop program does not cover damage from being sprayed with the wrong chemicals, but it does allow us to note that on your production so that the affected field doesn’t hurt the 10-year yield history used for other crop programs,” Swanson said.
  • Keep accurate records of your yields and load logs. If you suspect a yield loss, adjusters will need accurate records. “Oct. 1 is the first day of the discovery period for the fall price on crop insurance. If the fall price is less than the spring prices of $4 on December corn and $9.54 on November soybeans, then yield guarantees will be higher and it could trigger a loss even if you are seeing average yields,” Swanson said.

Program reminders

  • Swanson reminds farmers that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced it will defer accrual of interest for all agricultural producers’ spring 2019 crop year insurance premiums. According to RMA, the USDA will defer the accrual of interest on spring 2019 crop year insurance premiums to the earlier of the applicable termination date or for two months, until Nov. 30, for all policies with a premium billing date of August 15, 2019.
  • Signup for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP 2.0) payments ends on Dec. 6. Find more information at this link.

Harvest prep considerations

Fewer growing degree days, coupled with late planting in much of the state this year, means extra considerations when it comes to harvesting soybeans.

“With this weather pattern, preparing for and anticipating problems is very critical to optimizing profitability during harvest,” said Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) On-Farm Network® Director Scott Nelson.

 He provides a to-do list of considerations when preparing for harvest this year:

  • Inspect machinery, especially the cutter bar. Engineers estimate that 90 percent of soybean harvest loss occurs at the head and 80 percent of these losses are due to the cutter bar. Making sure the cutter bar is optimized will be important as we anticipate greener, more difficult-to-cut soybeans this fall.
  • Start harvesting when soybeans are at 14 percent moisture to reduce shatter losses. Seed moisture changes rapidly during the day, so careful monitoring of moisture throughout the day is very important.
  • Take the time to calibrate your yield monitor. During a busy harvest it is easy to neglect this important production tool. Careful calibration of the yield monitor will provide you with unique insight for next year’s crop as well as assure that you are monitoring moisture accurately.
  • Understand soybean shrink. Soybeans, like corn, will shrink during drying. Estimates are that weight loss during drying is 1.15 percent to 13 percent moisture. Breakage and spillage averages about 1 percent. Say for example you have soybeans harvested at 16 percent moisture; the average shrink will be about 4.5 percent. (16 percent – 13 percent = 3 percent moisture loss. 3 percent moisture loss X 1.15 shrink + 1 percent breakage loss = 4.5 percent).
  • Watch for low-lying pods. Due to late planting, soybeans are shorter this year and pods may be closer to the ground than usual. Making sure you collect these low-lying pods will make a big difference in your yields this fall.

 “It is estimated that soybean harvest losses range from 2 to 5 bushels per acre on average. Setting a goal of less than 1-bushel harvest loss can make a big difference in this season’s profitability,” Nelson said.

Contact Bethany Baratta at


For media inquiries, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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