Make Adjustments in Lodged Soybeans

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Some prep work and slower speeds can reduce soybean harvest loss. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

Lodged soybeans are a common occurrence in many areas of the Corn Belt this growing season. They will slow down harvest and can lead to increased harvest losses as the plants are more difficult to cut and gather into the combine. In a press release, Mike Staton, senior educator with Michigan State University, detailed ways farmers can reduce harvest losses due to lodging by adjusting and operating their combines.

Staton recommends farmers decrease the ground speed of combines to 2.5 to 3 miles per hour (mph). With the ground speed decreased, the cutter bar should also be positioned as close to the ground as possible.

Combine operators should angle pickup fingers on the reel back just slightly, which should more aggressively pull the lodged plants to the cutter bar, Staton recommended. Reduce the angle of the fingers if the plants are riding over the top of the reel.

Run the reel axle 9 to 12 inches ahead of the cutter bar. Operate the reel as low as necessary to pick up lodged plants without causing them to ride over the top of the reel. Raise the reel if this happens.

If soybeans plants are severely lodged, consider installing vine lifters on the cutter bar. Contact the manufacturer for specific recommendation if you using an air-assisted reel.

If the plants are badly lodged in just one direction, Staton recommends adding vine lifters to the cutter bar and harvesting at a 30-degree angle to the direction of the lodging. If this doesn't work, harvest all of the lodged plants in the direction opposite to the way they are leaning.

(My own experience here: Roughly 25 years ago we had a freak mid-October snowstorm in eastern Nebraska. My dad and uncle still were harvesting soybeans when the snow fell. After it melted and the fields dried they had to harvest the one bean field all in the opposite direction as the plants were leaning from the snow. It wasn't much fun, and it took even more time to harvest this field in one direction.)

One of the challenges in harvesting lodged soybeans is trying to find the correct ground speed and reel speed combination, Staton said. While this might sound easy, it is often very difficult to find a happy medium.

Stanton said if the ground speed is too fast in relation to the speed of the reel, the cutter bar will ride over some of the plants. If the reel speed is set too fast in relation to the ground speed, the reel can beat the beans out of the pods. The reel should run 10% to 20% faster than the ground speed under ideal conditions.

However, if the beans are lodged, increase the reel speed incrementally up to a maximum of 50% faster than the ground speed if necessary. If the reel is causing shattering, decrease the speed of the reel just to the point that shattering stops. If the cutter bar begins to ride over lodged plants, decrease your ground speed.

Stanton also recommended making one adjustment at a time when harvesting lodged soybeans. You should get out of the cab and evaluate your progress to reducing gathering losses.

Finally, farmers with significant lodging at harvest should try to identify the cause or causes of the lodging. The most likely reasons for lodging are excessive rainfall during vegetative stages, high plant populations, low potassium soils tests and variety selection.

Soybean varieties differ in their susceptibility to lodging, and producers should consider this characteristic when selecting varieties. Staton pointed to a MSU soybean variety performance trail near Hamilton, Michigan, as an example.

The two varieties were planted at the same planting rate (160,000 seeds per acre), fertilized the same and experienced the same weather conditions. However, one variety was badly lodged while the other variety stood well.

Planting date may affect the potential to lodge. Mid-May to mid-June planting dates generally produce the tallest plants, Staton said.

To read the entire Michigan State University release, go to….



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