Sustainability

2020 Ground Work: Illinois Soybean Harvest Rolling

We started harvesting soybeans the first week of October as planned, after having combined about 60% of our corn acres during the second half of September. This is the most fun part of the job of farming – bringing in the crops we spent the whole year caring for.

Sunny days with temperatures in the 21-27°C or 70-80°F range provided beautiful weather for cutting soybeans in our region in the heart of the U.S. Midwest, which we appreciated. However, it doesn’t take long for soybeans to dry out in that weather. We weren’t able to cut them fast enough, as their moisture content was already low, and it dried throughout each day. We would start harvesting soybeans at 11% moisture, and by mid-afternoon, the moisture would be close to 9%, which is less than ideal.

Our yields have also been a bit disappointing. This spring, although we weren’t able to plant soybeans until late May, it was the best they had looked going into the ground and emerging. But the lack of rain in August clearly hurt our yields. We had hoped that plenty of rain in July would have provided enough subsoil moisture to sustain the soybeans during August, but that wasn’t the case. The number of pods are there, but many 3-bean pods have just 2 beans in them, or 2 beans, and one that was clearly not able to fill out.

When we finish harvesting soybeans, which will take about 10 days, it looks like our farm average yield will be about 4.4 MT/hectare, or 65 bushels/acre. This is below our recent average. We are already thinking about ways to address this in the future. For example, we had one variety that yielded much differently in two nearby fields. We will look at reasons for that. In a field we are managing for the first time, soybean yield was lower than I have seen in my time farming, so we expect that we need to work on building up soil fertility in the coming years.

My role in harvest is usually driving my semi and delivering the crop from the field to market. I have been hauling soybeans to a nearby elevator, and most of them will end up at the local ADM crushing facility. From there, soy products go to domestic and international customers. For example, much of the soybean meal from this location feeds livestock throughout the U.S. Midwest.

Despite disappointing soybean yields, we have lots to be happy about. Prices are good right now. The beautiful fall weather means that when we return to picking corn, we won’t need to dry it to the right moisture to store. And our corn yields have been surprising. We expected below-average yields, but we are seeing average to above-average yields. While we still have 40% of our fields to harvest, I estimate that our average corn yield will be between 13-13.6 MT/hectare, or 205-215 bushels/acre.

And the biggest highlight of the season was treating our daughter Madeline to her first combine ride!

 

Elliott Uphoff
Elliott Uphoff

U.S. Soybean Farmer

Illinois

Elliott Uphoff farms with his dad and retired grandpa. Elliott is the fifth generation of his family to farm near Shelbyville, Illinois, raising soybean and corn. He earned his degree in plant and soil science with a minor in agribusiness from Southern Illinois University in 2012, and he joined the farm full-time in 2013. Elliott also has a trucking business and serves as an Illinois Soybean Association director. He and his wife Hailey welcomed their first daughter, Madeline, in November 2019.