It’s an early harvest for soybean growers, and while some are happy to beat the first freeze, others are losing out on about a third of their yield.
Renk Seed Company in Sun Prairie fired up its combines two weeks ahead of schedule.
Field supervisor Dale Tuschen said, “It was never this dry. We’ve just gone too many weeks without rain this year.”
Onboard a high-tech harvest machine, Dean Manthe cuts 300 acres of stubborn soybean stems.
“The beans are definitely ready,” the custom harvester said. “The beans are ready, but the stalks are so green, it’s hard to get them through the combine.”
Manthe helps about 10 farmers every season, mostly with soybeans. He said Renk Seeds’s fields are going to turn out more than most because of an investment in irrigation systems.
“Non-irrigated, it’s down 20 bushels, 20 to 30 bushels per acre,” Manthe explained.
The beans from Sunday’s harvest will become seed, not food products. That means a bad crop in the field could make it tougher for other farmers in the coming season.
“It has this trickle down effect,” Tuschen said. “We have a bad year here, we have less beans to sell for next year and farmers have less beans to plant next year.”
“It’s definitely going to hurt our profits this year,” Manthe added. “We’re going to have to carry some into next year, I guess.”
Tuschen also manages the company’s corn production and says the yield in the soybean fields looks more promising than what he expects from others.
“The beans seemed to put up with the dry weather a little bit better than the corn,” Tuschen said.
On top of the drought, Tuschen had to deal with spider mites in the soybean fields, forcing him to spray down the acreage multiple times.
Tuschen and Manthe anticipated a hard freeze Saturday night, but said the cold weather would have made it more difficult to keep the seed viable for future growing seasons. However, the crops freezing would have made the harvest go a little smoother by making the stems easier to chop down.