The key to a successful soybean harvest is preparation and anticipating problems, and here are some top tips to help you head into harvest with the fewest headaches, breakdowns and delays:
1. Inspect the soybean harvester in advance. Inspect belts and chains for proper tension; check auger flighting wear and look at wear on rasp bars and the cylinder or rotor concave, also check the cleaning shoe for broken or bent sieves; check the cutter bar for wear and flex and height-control adjustment to help assure less loss caused by cutter bar in harvest. Ensure all knives are sharp and that knife guards are tight and in good condition. Know the recommended combine and cylinder settings, and have the equipment well maintained and ready to go by harvest.
2. Pre-scout fields by mid-August for weed issues before harvest. Viny weeds like morning glory and bur-cucumber can create difficult challenges at soybean harvest, and if fields have viny weeds, you might have to wait until they dry down to harvest.
3. Carefully monitor moisture content to stop shatter losses. The biggest mistake with soybean harvest is poor timing, harvest fields sooner rather than later to avoid the repeated drying and rewetting cycles that can increase shatter losses once moisture levels initially drop below 13%. Try to time your initial harvest right around 15% moisture content, as you move from one field to another, recheck the moisture content and adjust your soybean combine harvester settings.
4. Get low, stay low. Lodged or stunted beans can present a challenge at harvest, get the reel or soybean head down low enough so that you are not missing any pods. If the crop is standing well, you can set the reel index(ratio between reel speed and ground speed) for the bat and finger pickup somewhere between 1.25 and 1.50 (25% faster or 50% faster than ground speed). If the crop is lodged, you can increase the reel index to 1.50-2.00.
5. Adjust on-the-go. Check your grain tanks periodically for un-threshed pods and split or damaged beans and adjust concave and cylinder setting on-the-go as necessary, also check the ground behind the soybean harvesting machine for un-threshed pods or for shelled beans and adjust the blower and sieve settings if necessary.
6. Screen your beans. If you are storing soybeans for future delivery in March or April, screen them prior to loading them into the bin, because pods that are green, weed seed and fines all contribute to an increases chance of spoilage. You can also unload soybeans from bins, run them through screens and reload them into bins later in the fall.
7. Stay safe. Consider safety issues and emergency preparations before harvest.