Tough stems slowing soybean harvest in Ohio

As farmer John Davis worked a 150-acre Union County field in late September, many would have thought he was running soybeans in a hail storm. The clanging on the windshield of his Case IH combine may have sounded like ice, but it was projectile soybeans that were being flung at the cab instead of being gobbled up by the red harvester. The reason for flying soybeans and slower progress in the field is a problem that some would call an epidemic for Ohio soybean farmers this year — tough stems.

“The soybeans themselves are plenty dry, but the stems are tougher than usual,” Davis said. “That has created some havoc as we have had to run a bit slower in this field and have been plugged up a time or two.”

Some farmers will attribute the ropier stems this season to fungicide and some farmers believe certain varieties are the culprit, but it may just be the type of growing conditions this year’s soybeans have had.

“In the middle to late part of July the amount of sunlight soybeans received and the accumulations of growing degree days really dropped off,” said Bradley Ott, a DuPont Pioneer Account Manager for the southwestern part of Ohio. “Anytime you have less sunlight you will have more vegetative growth as that plant stretches to capture as much sunlight as possible and that had led to the height we are seeing this year.”

That, along with lodging during the growing season and the cooler weather that occurred while the plants were still living, all attributed to the issue of tougher soybean plants. What makes this problem tricky is that while farmers wait for the stems to loosen up, they may be losing some profit as the plants progress so far along that beans fall out of their pods.

“Our beans would test at 11% to 12% and we were running green stems and leaves through our machines, but the average would be enough that you had to run them,” said Doug Longfellow, a Darke County farmer. “The ones that were dry that died prematurely would shatter in the sickle, so we saw both sides of the spectrum.”

Not only are challenging stems slowing down the rate of the combine’s speed, it was also causing farmers to call it a day a little earlier than usual

“The challenge is when you run beans late into the night,” said John Hoffman, Pickaway County farmer. “When the sun starts to go down, the stems toughen up in a hurry and we drop our miles per hour significantly the later we go. I don’t think anyone is complaining about the green stems as long as there is good yield to go with it.”

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