The recent snowfall on standing crops creates some unique conditions for harvest. If possible, wait until soil conditions are favorable. That may mean waiting until the ground freezes. Harvesting when the soil is wet can create soil compaction issues that have long-term consequences. Soil compaction will: increase soil bulk density, increase surface water runoff, reduce water infiltration, reduce soil aeration and restrict root penetration. All of these factors have a negative impact on crop yield.
There is a tradeoff between harvesting wet grain and the consequences of leaving the crop in the field until later in the season. Harvesting when the soybean pods or corn husks are still wet can mean plant material will stick to the grain when harvested. This problem is most likely to occur when air temperatures are between 27 and 35 degrees. The wet grain will require the expense of drying.
Harvesting wet, frozen grain is hard on equipment. It is important to check that combine settings are correct and perform all preventative maintenance to minimize damage to equipment.
Delayed harvest can reduce grain quality. Grain left standing in the field, particularly soybeans, can mean split pods and seed shatter. Fall fertilization and planting cover crops is also delayed.
Strategies to reduce compaction if harvesting when the soil is wet: Reduce wheel traffic by using dedicated travel lanes rather than unloading into a grain cart on the go, and keep trucks near the field exit. Do not run at full capacity. Reducing the weight of equipment will reduce compaction. Adjust tire size and inflation. Larger tires with lower air pressure create more surface area over which to spread the load and improve flotation.
For more information contact Valerie Tate, Agronomist for MU Extension Office at email@example.com or call 660-895-5123. University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all.