September is here and we are counting the days till soybean harvest. It will be a good harvest with above average yields. So, what will the yield be and when will harvest begin? It is probably fair to say that soybean yields will be above average even though parts of the state may have suffered some setbacks from too or not enough rain.

The Pro Farmer crop tour reported Illinois’ projected soybean yield at 58.5 bushels per acre. They reported “The soybean crop in Illinois was exceptionally tall. While tall beans don’t always produce big yields, the Illinois soybean crop has plenty of pods and moisture to push above USDA’s August estimate.”

The USDA’s most recent August estimate of soybean yields is promising. A news release published August 12 stated “U.S. soybean growers also took advantage of the favorable weather conditions and are forecast to increase their production by 3 percent from 2015. Soybean yields are expected to average 48.9 bushels per acre, reaching another record-high mark. Record soybean yields are expected in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Growers are forecast to harvest 83.0 million acres of soybeans this year.” And another USDA press release stated “Planted area (for soybeans) is estimated at 9.90 million acres, up 1 percent from last year. Harvested area, forecast at 9.84 million acres, is up 1 percent from 2015. Based on August 1 conditions, the Illinois soybean yield is forecast at 57 bushels per acre, a 1-bushel increase from 2015. If realized, this would be the highest yield on record for the state. Production is forecast at a record-setting 561 million bushels, a 3-percent increase from last year.”

If ISA’s Yield Challenge is a harbinger of things to come, we are expecting an uptick in the number of entries, and especially 100-bushel challenge entrants. Don Stork, representative with Stoller USA, told me that they will have 8 to 10 entrants in the 100-bushel challenge and that any or all of those growers could break 100 bushels. Another seed dealer who is entering clients in the Yield Challenge also told me that this is the first time he had so many growers looking like they will hit 90-bushel or better yield.

However, the truth about yield will be known in a few short weeks when combines begin to run. So when will harvest begin? I reached out to the soybean envoys to see when they thought combines will run.

Lance Tarochione, Northwest Soy Envoy, stated “The corn crop is changing rapidly and harvest has already begun in the earliest planted and most aggressive parts of central Illinois. If you are willing and able to handle high moisture corn there are acres that can be harvested, but most will not start until after Labor Day. Early yield reports are not record setting, but still very good. The earliest soybeans are just starting to turn, so we will have a few weeks to get a good start on corn harvest before we have any soybeans ready to cut. Full-season soybeans are still green as grass unless being impacted by SDS.”

Adam Day, North Central Soy Envoy, stated “In my area we will begin to harvest most likely the third week of September. We have some early bean varieties that will be ready to get after. On corn several growers have mentioned September corn contracts as well as their efficiency to dry corn from 25% in late September weather. Also, with better than expected yield conditions some varieties may have standability issues as we get later into the season and guys will be managing for that.”

Stephanie Porter, West Central Soy Envoy, stated “For the most part, when it comes to corn, we are almost completely black layered for most hybrids. Some hybrids later than 114 may not quite be there yet depending on planting date. I anticipate that the bulk of harvest will begin in a few weeks. A very small percentage has started harvest. Check stalk rot and ear rot as you anticipate which fields you harvest first. The group 2.0 soybeans are just starting to turn in Northern Illinois. Central Illinois soybeans appear to be near the R6 growth stage, depending on maturity. Yellow patches in the field could be Septoria brown spot in Central Illinois and SDS as you move north.”

Terry Wyciskalla, Southwest Soy Envoy, stated “We may have a few scattered corn fields that will be opened up in a couple of weeks here in the Washington and Jefferson County areas. Further to the west will be much the same. Dairy producers in Clinton and Washington Counties have been chopping silage for the last three weeks. I think most of the corn harvest will occur about the third week of September for the earlier plantings. Later corn plantings and all soybeans will not see harvest beginning until mid October. However, recent heavy rains and flooding have caused some serious problems. We have lost entire corn and soybean fields in the bottom lands in many places. Rainfall totals ranged from 6 – 14 inches in places two weeks ago.”

Mike Wilson, Southeast Soy Envoy, stated “We are just starting corn today (Aug. 29); corn condition is good for all the rain but ear rots are getting a start. Soybeans look really good at this point. If we don’t get moldy pods from all the heat and rain things could get really interesting at harvest. Beans have several 4-bean pods and they are filling out. Group 2.8 beans will cut in a couple of weeks.”

Agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at or ring him at 402-649-5919.

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About the Author: Dan Davidson

Soybean agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on topics related to soybean agronomy. Feel free to contact him at or ring him at 402-649-5919.