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A “dryer” soybean harvest

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader

The challenging wet weather this spring may lead to wet soybeans for harvest this fall around Ohio.

“We’ve dried soybeans before, and we can do it again,” said Mic Robertson, Branch Manager for The Jewell Grain Company.

The Jewell Grain Company has locations in both Defiance and Henry counties. For those crops that did get planted, the expectation is that harvest will be delayed, and a good deal of mechanical drying will be necessary. According to the USDA, more than 42% of the acres in Defiance County, more than 32% of the acres in Henry County, and more than 46% of the acres in Williams County did not get planted this year. Neil Nofzinger, manager of Stryker Farmers Exchange, a farmer owned cooperative in Williams County, is concerned especially about the soybean situation.

“Many of these soybeans were planted later than usual. In 2018 most of the soybeans were planted the first week of June. This year, most beans were planted the last week of June. There is a three-week difference, and those are three critical weeks of growth and development that translates to a later maturity and dry down period,” Nofzinger said. “Once those soybeans are harvested, getting them dried down to the moisture that they can safely be stored at will be a challenge. Soybeans are not like corn. Grain handlers know how to dry corn and can run a lot of it very efficiently. Soybeans are a different story.”

If a combine is not set correctly, a larger number of pods can get into the grain tank, and eventually end up in the dryer. Adjusting the combine for soybeans that did not fully mature before they died can also be a challenge. Pods in the dryer can pose a fire hazard.

“When drying soybeans, you need to pay attention and manage the pods,” Nofzinger said. “The pods have a lower flashpoint, so closely monitoring the grain and regulating the temperature is important. Dry pods that area highly flammable combined with the high oil content of some soybean varieties can be tough.”

Both the soybean pods and also the seed coat of the soybeans can cause issues, so equipment maintenance and clean-out are important in grain dryer fire prevention.

“Typically, if you clean the dryer regularly to remove any of the debris that builds up, you can prevent most dryer fires. You can’t just start it and walk away,” Robertson said. “Often pods and hulls can build up where the grain flow inverts near the middle of the dryer. Regular inspection and cleaning are important. You need to watch the temperature and take your time. The good thing about drying soybeans is that you typically do not have near the volume as you do with corn.”

Maintaining soybean seed quality during the harvesting process is the first step in reducing the number of pods and soybean hulls that end up in the combine grain tank, and eventually in the local grain elevator’s drying system. Iowa State University Extension published a handy pocket guide with number of considerations when setting a combine to optimize soybean seed quality. Seed damage is caused by impact, pinching, and shearing. Damage takes place not only in the thresher, but in grain handling equipment as well. Where augers are used, they need to be kept full to reduce damage. The same applies to the whole combine thresher and processor. Seed damage can even start in the header cross auger. The dominant combine setting affecting soybean seed damage is cylinder or rotor speed. The optimal thresher speed is the slowest cylinder speed or rotor speed that will shell the pods with acceptable loss levels. Damage also increases at excessive moistures (higher than 14%). USDA recommends harvesting soybeans at 12% moisture.

The following set-up procedures are recommended.

Start with the settings in the operator’s manual first.
Make only one adjustment at a time.
An under-loaded machine will increase grain damage.
Maintain engine speed for best threshing and processor performance.
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Proper set-up and maintenance of both the combine, and the grain dryer can go a long way in making this a smooth soybean harvest and drying season for everyone involved.

Ohio Field Leader is a project of the Ohio Soybean Council. For more, visit ohiofieldleader.com.

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