Green sprouts from corn and soybeans losses indicate a profit loss

Jeff Burbrink

Driving through the countryside Tuesday, I saw a few fields with green stripes of sprouting corn left behind by the combine. While there will always be some harvest loss, when the losses become visible from the road, you can bet some fine-tuning would have helped more grain in the bin.

What is an acceptable loss? Most experts believe 1 to 2 bushels of corn per acre loss is satisfactory once the combined has been adjusted.

Measuring losses in the field depends on the row width. For most people planting in 30-inch rows with an eight-row combine head, the length of a row to measure for 1/100 of an acre is 22 feet. Each full-sized ear represents about 1 bushel per acre loss.

To measure kernel loss, measure loose kernels on the ground and those still attached to harvested cobs in a 10 square foot area for each row of the combine. Two kernels per square foot is the equivalent of 1 bushel per acre loss.

A good target for soybean harvest losses is 3 percent, which would be 1.35 bushel/acre in a 45 bushel/acre crop (or 5.4 soybeans/square foot). Most of soybean harvesting losses occur at the gathering unit of the combine between the header and standing soybean plants. Loss at the gathering unit is often from shattering.

Shattering loss can be reduced by harvesting soybeans as quickly as possible when soybean moisture reaches 15 percent. Ground speed should be reduced to 3 miles/ hour or less, and reels should operate about 25 percent faster than ground speed. The best guide for correct combine settings and adjustments is your operator’s manual. 

Jeff Burbrink is an educator with Purdue Extension Elkhart County. He can be reached at 574-533-0554 or

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