Pre-Harvest Field Scouting Tips

Identifying fields that have standability, disease, stress, uneven maturity, or moisture content issues will help increase efficiency during harvest and minimize in-field losses.

Relative maturity and planting date can help estimate harvest time. Field history, crop rotation, the type of stress (environmental, pest, nutrient leaching, and others) can help predict which fields may have uneven maturity or fields that will need to be harvested early. With that information, you can do a pre-harvest survey of fields to find other issues that may require early harvesting to avoid losses.

A few other factors to consider to when determining harvest order:

  • Scout different parts of the field for corn stalk quality. Use the push and pinch tests to find weak stalks, split lower portions of stalks to determine stalk strength and if the stalks are discolored, shredded, or hollow. If there are 10-15% rotted or hollow stalks lodging is possible and the field should be harvested early.
  • Look at ears for rots and test ear shanks for weakness and potential ear drop. Ear rot fungal organisms can infect silks during cool, moist conditions during pollination.
  • Check soybean standability, as moist, fertile soils may increase vegetative growth and can lead to tall, leggy plants that may lodge. Yield potential is most affected if lodging occurs during beginning seed (R5) growth stage.1,2 Pod and stem diseases can be more problematic in lodged beans. Harvest losses due to soybean lodging can vary from 3 to 10% depending on a several of factors.2
  • As you survey soybeans for diseases, be alert for sudden death syndrome (SDS). It may not be in North Dakota yet, but SDS has been confirmed in Otter Tail County, MN.
  • Harvest non-infested soybean fields before white mold-infested fields, to be sure the combine does not deposit any residual sclerotia in the non-infested fields.

Sources: 1 Woods, S.J. and Swearingin, M.L. 1977. Influence of simulated early lodging upon soybean seed yield and its components. Agronomy Journal. 69: 239-242. 2 Holshouser, D. 2011. Hurricane Irene may be beneficial to Virginia soybeans… still lodging will lower yield potential. Virginia Cooperative Extension.  170902161300