Soybean acreage in Louisiana has been trending higher, fueled by higher demand and increasing prices paid to growers. For producers to make the most of the current situation, they must harvest their beans in a timely manner to avoid damage and penalties for poor quality.

“When their beans are ripe and ready to harvest, growers need to make harvest a priority,” said LSU AgCenter agronomist Josh Lofton. “The optimum window to harvest can close quickly, and seed quality can be impacted dramatically in seven to 10 days.”

According to Lofton, growers can do an excellent job during the early stages of soybean production, such as planting at optimum dates, using recommended varieties and seeding rates, and monitoring for insects and diseases. All of their diligent efforts can be undone on the back end by failing to harvest in a timely fashion.

“We have shown that both yield and seed quality can be reduced if negative environmental conditions exist while beans wait to be harvested. This reduction can happen quickly.”

Phomopsis seed decay can drastically decrease seed quality and is a major issue for growers. Additionally, it appears that applying fungicides during late-season growth has little to no effect on maintaining seed quality. On the other hand, timely harvesting not only helps protect seed quality but adds no additional cost.

With the popularity of double-cropping soybeans behind wheat, Lofton said, growers must select varieties that fit that crop rotation.

“We have a lot of growers specifically in northeast Louisiana, as soon as they harvest wheat, they are thinking about putting soybeans in the ground. They are planting in June, so they need to look at the maturity group that best suits that system.”

Group IV and V soybeans are the most popular varieties grown in Louisiana. In his work, Lofton is looking at how Groups III and VI can perform in a series of planting dates.

“By matching the right variety with the optimum planting date and with the right model, growers can get an idea of when the plants will reach specific growth stages. This will allow them to create a schedule and better plan for insecticide and herbicide applications, irrigation, fertilization and when the beans may actually be ready to harvest.”

Lofton noted that producers can do little about some issues that affect seed quality. If rains occur in late afternoon or early evening and humidity levels stay high overnight, this extended period of moisture can degrade the quality of the bean.

“The bottom line is, the quicker the beans are removed from the field when they are ready, the lesser the chance a farmer will be docked for seed quality issues.”