The Data-Driven Harvest Moisture Insights You Need to Know

Harvest moisture is a hot topic this time of year, and agronomists and researchers have varying opinions and recommendations. It’s a complex and potentially costly decision– leaving crops to dry down in the field can save on drying costs and processor moisture penalties, but also opens up exposure to yield loss. 

There are many variables and obstacles on the path to “ideal” moisture, and depending who you ask, the opinion or recommendation may vary. What is right for one farm or geography may be very different to another. Here at Granular, we’ve kept tabs on harvest moisture trends for many years and have spotted some trends that can impact profitability.

Corn Harvest Moisture Over Time

  • In 2019 we observed an especially high harvest moisture due to wet planting conditions. Better conditions in 2020 led to a closer to typical Harvest Moisture of 18.8%.
  • A higher corn basis in September of 2013 meant an early harvest for many fields when the drying cost was offset by higher grain price.

As we look to 2021, we expect a further trend down in harvest moisture. 2021 Planting conditions in most of the corn belt were timely, and portions of the corn belt have experienced a dry growing season. Many producers are hoping to make the most of a better price outlook, but the experts we work with still caution to not get into too big of a hurry. Given the drought conditions that some producers in the corn belt have experienced, we urge that it is likely worth allowing corn to dry in the field to the low twenties to limit drying costs. As always, it is critical to monitor stalk quality to find the right balance of optimum yield while limiting drying costs.

Average Soybean Harvest Moisture by State

  • Soybeans typically see less yield loss as they dry down, which means the target harvest moisture should nearly always be the desired storage or delivery moisture. Getting an accurate moisture reading can help pinpoint the ideal time to start bean harvest. 
  • In the northeast, a shorter growing season means that soybean harvest is more likely to be dictated by scheduling rather than moisture.
  • In 2020, 88% of soybeans were harvested between 11 and 14% moisture, while only 12% were harvested under the 11% delivery target.

Average Corn Harvest Moisture by State

  • Maximum yield is often found by harvesting corn in the high teens or low twenties since dropped ears and stalk damage can reduce yields when drying down in the field. However, harvesting at high moisture typically means paying drying costs in dryer fuel, or in fees at the elevator. Make sure you’re accurately accounting for those costs. 
  • Picking the ideal harvest moisture is a nuanced task that should also take into account expected storage conditions and field conditions.
  • Like soybeans, in the northeast a shorter growing season can force farmers to harvest before their corn has dried fully in the field.
  • In 2020, 39% of corn acres were harvested between 15.5 and 18% moisture

Our colleagues at Pioneer Agronomy have also done extensive research on grain moisture and harvest conditions. While looking at trends and regional data can be a helpful starting point when determining the right harvest moisture for your farm, the best data points will come from your own fields. Our team is continuously working to put features in Granular Insights that can help farmers make stronger, more profitable decisions with their own data. 

Create a free account to check out the historical performance of your acres and see what moisture levels yielded best for you in 2020 to help guide your decisions this fall.

See Your Moisture Insights

Granular Data Analyst Hayden Schaumburg

Hayden Schaumburg is a Data Analyst here at Granular, where he focuses on deriving meaningful insights from data at Granular, with the intention of helping farmers make profitable decisions. He holds a Bachelors in Farm Management, and a Masters of Applied and Agricultural Economics from the University of Illinois. Hayden is a farmer himself in the Central Illinois region.

About our methodology and approach to data: we believe farmers own their data, period. Our data science team looks at aggregate, anonymized data with one goal: to give every farm, regardless of size, a level playing field with equal access to informative data and analytics.

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