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Use Yield Estimates to Help Guide Harvest Decisions

Estimating corn and soybean yields can help you plan equipment, labor and storage needs before your combine heads to the field this fall.

Although some might consider it counting your chickens before they’re hatched, yield estimating can be a valuable planning and harvest preparedness tool. Best of all, it’s relatively easy, requiring only a little of your time and a few simple calculations.

Knowing your crops’ yield potential can help you anticipate equipment and labor needs, manage grain storage and plan livestock feed supplies and marketing. The same yield-estimating calculations can help you do a quick check of your combine’s yield monitor accuracy.

Pick your method for corn

You can choose from several methods to estimate corn yields. This University of Wisconsin Extension publication details options ranging from hand-harvested to ear weight to ear length. Other calculations address one of the most important variables: kernel weight.1 Purdue University Extension provides step-by-step instructions for the Yield Component Method and further guidance on estimating kernel weight.

Kernel weight is important. It is the only subjective entry in most yield calculation equations. It requires you to predict grain fill. And that prediction is less certain the further you are from harvest. Plus, actual kernel weights for the same hybrid can vary from field to field and even within the same field.2

Soybean yields are trickier

Estimating soybean yields can be more challenging and less reliable than predicting corn yields. Soybeans have a great ability to compensate for various growing conditions.3 Thus, yield-estimating calculations include fewer certainties and more factors that can change between when you conduct your yield estimate and harvest. Purdue University Extension agronomists offer guidance on estimating soybean yields, along with a step-by-step calculation. Or download and print this worksheet from Michigan State University Extension.

Tips for Success

Regardless of the method you choose for estimating yields, several factors can help improve your accuracy:

  • Be patient. The closer you are to harvest, the more accurate your results.
  • Measure carefully. Most methods require counting or selecting plants or ears for a specific length of row. An extra plant or two can skew results.
  • Be representative. Average samples from several locations across the field. The more variable the field, the more sites you should consider sampling.

Calculating yield estimates can be worthwhile for many reasons. It doesn’t matter whether you rely on the results for planning or simply for validation of your hard work. Any time you spend walking your fields, checking plants and measuring results is time well-spent. And if your estimates cause pause for concern about the capabilities of your equipment to get the job done this fall, talk with your Case IH dealer about upgrading your fleet.


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1Larson E. How Can I Estimate Corn Yield? Mississippi State University Extension website. Published July 11, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2017.

2Nielsen B. Estimating Corn Grain Yield Prior to Harvest. Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service website. Published August 2016. Accessed July 24, 2017.

3Casteel S. Estimating Soybean Yields — Simplified. Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service website. Published August 14, 2012. Accessed July 24, 2017.
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