Harvest considerations for overly dry soybeans

Should producers continue to harvest overly dry soybeans or wait for rain to add moisture back into the beans?

September 28, 2017 - Author: Mike Staton,

Harvesting dry soybeans near Charlotte, Michigan, on Sept. 26, 2017. Photo by Mike Staton, MSU Extension.
Harvesting dry soybeans near Charlotte, Michigan, on Sept. 26, 2017. Photo by Mike Staton, MSU Extension.

The lack of precipitation and the record-setting high temperatures have caused the Michigan soybean crop to dry down rapidly. In fact, the moisture content of the beans has dropped to 8–9 percent in many fields. This situation has producers asking if they should continue to harvest the overly dry soybeans or wait for rain to add the moisture back into the beans. This is an individual decision. I will try to provide some information in this article that should help guide this decision.

Advantages of continuing to harvest the overly dry soybeans:

  • Timely wheat planting.
  • Reduced soil compaction.
  • Fall tillage operations can be competed sooner.

The main advantage of delaying harvest and waiting for rain is the net value of each bushel harvested may be increased (see table). However, there is some risk associated with this strategy. Harvest losses may increase as soybean pods typically become more brittle with each wetting and drying cycle. Today’s varieties are more resistant to shattering, but the risk increases with repeated wetting and drying cycles.

Net value of a bushel of soybeans at various moisture contents.

Moisture (%)

Dry weight (lbs. per bushel)

Net value ($ per bushel)



















*Soybean price is $9.20 per bushel.

You should also consider the following factors when making the decision to continue harvesting the overly dry soybeans or delaying harvest operations.

What is the calendar date and weather outlook?

  • It is still early in the harvest season and the 6-10 and 8-14 day weather outlooks are projecting higher than normal temperatures and slightly above normal precipitation.

How will the soybeans be marketed?

  • Soybeans grown for seed should be harvested at moisture levels near 13 percent to optimize seed quality. The risk of reducing seed quality increases significantly as the moisture level in the seed falls below 10 percent, so seed producers should wait for rain if moisture levels are below 10 percent.
  • Producers growing soybeans under contract should check their contracts to see if an acceptable moisture level range is stated. If the overly dry beans are acceptable to buyers, harvest can continue or be delayed.
  • Producers raising commercial soybeans have no marketing restrictions regarding moisture content as long as the moisture levels are below 18 percent.

Are the fields well drained or poorly drained?

  • Consider harvesting poorly drained fields while soil conditions are optimal.

Can the overly dry soybeans be harvested without excessive shatter losses or splits?

Do you have the capability to recondition the overly dry soybeans?

This article was produced by the SMaRT project (Soybean Management and Research Technology). The SMaRT project was developed to help Michigan producers increase soybean yields and farm profitability. The SMaRT project is a partnership between Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Soybean Checkoff program.

Tags: agriculture, agriculture, agriculture and agribusiness, agriculture and agribusiness, field crops, field crops, msu extension, msu extension, soybeans, soybeans

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