Agronomy. Answers. Yield. Aug/Sept 2020 Mobile Article Header Image When Does Harvesting Wet Crop Pay

You don’t like to take a dock for wet soybeans at the elevator. You don’t want to spend money drying corn. I understand both points, but when can these “expenses” actually prove to be worthwhile investments?

You harvest more bushels when the grain is wet. Think about soybeans. Shrink is figured at 1.5% per point of moisture, so if you let your beans get down to 8%, that means you will be selling 7.5% fewer bushels than if you bring those beans to the elevator at 13% moisture. Let’s say you have 50,000 bushels at $8. That’s $400,000. Would you really want to lose $30,000 (7.5% of $400,000) because the soybeans got too dry? Instead, you could start hauling some beans in at 14% or even 15%. Run the numbers. You will be money ahead. Better yet, get a bin fan control system from a company like Farm Shop MFG and dry those beans down with air. On our farm, we now harvest a lot of soybeans in the 15% to 17% moisture range and dry them down to 13% in about 3 weeks in our bins each fall. Turning to corn, you will have a lot less harvest loss and pre-harvest loss in your field if you start combining at 20% to 24% moisture versus 15% to 17%.

The earlier you harvest, the more time that leaves to get everything ready for next year’s crop. How often have you waited for a crop to dry down, and then you are behind schedule for soil testing, applying fertilizer, tillage, and preparing next year’s seedbed? One of the things our dad talked to us about all the time is that the clock is ticking each fall. It’s not just about this year’s crop. It’s about next year’s and the year after that and the year after that. In the northern United States where we farm, if we can start just three days earlier, that means we’re done three days earlier, meaning we have three more days to work on all the other jobs that need to get done to be ready for our spring crop.

Drying grain is a lot easier when it’s warm. My fall job on our farm for about 20 years was to dry our corn. To me, it seemed crazy how much less propane we used anytime we could harvest early and dry the grain in warmer weather. On days where I had heat and sunlight, drying the corn was a breeze. I felt that I could dry 22% moisture corn cheaper than 18% or 20% corn if I just had warm, sunny days. By the way, our dad was a huge believer in running every bushel through our continuous flow dryers every single year. We bought a cheap, big propane tank years ago so we can bring in semi-loads of propane, and we figure our cost to dry corn now is only about a penny a point because our dryers are older and paid off, yet still very effective and efficient.

Grain bin fan control systems mounted on the side of a grain bin

Harvesting when the grain is wet can prevent profit loss due to grain shrink.

Grain Bin Fan attached to a grain bin

Using bin fans with a control system can help you get grain to the ideal moisture level for your elevator.

It makes no difference to me if you want to harvest your grain when it is wet or wait until it is dry. All I can tell you is now that we have a system with bin fan controls to dry our soybeans, we’re never going back to waiting until we hit 13% moisture beans to start harvest. Our grain quality is better. Our harvest starts and ends much sooner, and we are coming out money ahead in terms of what we haul to the elevator versus our minimal cost.

In terms of corn, you will get more yield by harvesting wetter corn, but if you have to haul directly to an elevator, it will probably not be cost-effective to harvest at 20%+. Long-term, though, I would encourage you to check into getting a nice drying setup on your farm. We have a 35,000 bushel wet holding bin that we added about 10 years ago, and that was the biggest thing that allowed us to fully utilize our grain dryers. Instead of our dryers shutting down in the middle of the night, we now dry all night into the next day, so it maximizes our drying capacity. Plus, we can harvest quickly and get on to fertilizer, tillage, and everything else we’re trying to do each fall.

The most important thing I want to stress is if you simply look at the economics and consider everything involved, harvesting wet is often more profitable. Plus, it reduces your stress by giving you more time to farm each fall.