Adjusting your combine can pay dividends quickly

This Hula Hoop was used in a field to measure soybeans sprouting in a field after harvest. This particular sample had 44 beans in the 3.4 square foot circle, the equivalent of 3.2 bushels per acre, or about $38 worth of soybeans per acre, conservatively priced.

I took a Hula Hoop to some soybean fields last week.

Not only are Hula Hoops a kids toy, they can be used as a way to measure crop losses after the combine passes through.

My hoop measures 25 inches across, which means it is approximately 3.4 square feet in area. In the first field, I rolled the hoop to get random samples, and counted 54, 32, 35, 31 and 44 young soybean plants growing within the hoop’s circle. That’s an average of 39.2 bean plants growing in the 3.4 feet, or about 11.5 beans per square foot.

Four beans per square foot is equal to 1 bushel of beans per acre, so the average for this field, using this simple estimation, is that 2.88 bushels of beans dropped to the ground. Using a conservative price of $12 per bushel, about $35 per acre worth of soybeans were left in the field, only counting those beads that sprouted.

It does not take much imagination to understand this is a huge loss of income. If the combine remains at the current settings, the financial loss could run into the thousands. That is serious money, money that could be used to hire someone to adjust the combine. Or take a vacation. Or donate to charity.

What really got my attention, in one field, there were six-foot-wide strips I attribute to dropping the bean residue directly behind the combine. I checked one of those green strips, and counted 156 bean plants in the 3.4 square foot circle. That’s comes to 45 beans per square foot, or over 11 bushels per acre.

While not a scientifically valid way to sample, it definitely shows there is definitely room for improvement.

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

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