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Effect of 2017 Mature Soybean Seed Damage

In the Midsouth, inclement weather, which includes periods of rain and moderate to high temperatures occurring simultaneously for extended periods of time when soybeans are near or at harvest maturity, will result in damage to mature soybean seed. This significant weather-related damage can occur before harvest in all locales of the Midsouth (Missouri Bootheel south) if these adverse weather conditions occur at those locales for an extended period when soybeans are nearing or at maturity.

All grain elevators that receive and purchase soybeans from producers have a discount schedule that they apply to each individual load that is delivered to them. These discount schedules vary somewhat from elevator to elevator and from year to year, and are used to determine the reduction in price paid for the delivered product. The damage amount (usually expressed as a percentage) is assigned a discount value per bushel of delivered product. In some cases, the dockage amount will essentially destroy any profit opportunity that was potentially present in any soybean crop before the onset of seed damage-causing conditions.

In 2017 in the Midsouth, damage to harvested soybean seed was above normal in many locales that were affected by the adverse weather that occurred in Aug.-early Sept. This caused abnormally high damage dockage assessments to many of the soybean loads that were harvested and delivered during and after this period.

To reinforce the monetary loss associated with damage to mature soybean seed delivered to the elevator, I have obtained tickets from 632 loads of soybeans delivered to a Mississippi elevator from early August to mid-September. The average damage assessed by the elevator to those 632 loads was 6.98%. According to a discount schedule of a Midsouth grain elevator, this would have resulted in a dockage of $0.29/bu of delivered product. Data in the below table show just how much potential producer income was or could have been lost because of this damage, assuming it affected 100% and 25% of the harvested soybeans in each indicated state.

Effects of dockage because of damage to harvested soybean seed (uses above 6.98% average damage and 100% and 25% of each state’s acres affected; acreage and yield data from NASS).






Lost Revenue


Harvested acres


Total bushels






50 bu/acre







54 bu/acre







52 bu/acre







51 bu/acre





Using the 6.98% average damage from above, the total lost revenue in the four states would have been $127,443,400 and $31,860,850 if 100% and 25%, respectively, of each state’s production was affected.

To further emphasize just how critical dockage for seed damage can be, the following points are presented.

•   Of the 632 elevator tickets, 89 or 14% showed assessed damage >10%. The lost revenue on these loads would have been much greater than the shown losses in the above table, especially since damage over 10% can be discounted at $0.10/bu for each 1% damage over 10%.

•   The average damage of 6.98% shown above is not much below the next damage grade of 7.1-8.0%, which would have been assessed dockage at $0.36/bu.

•   Remember, this is lost revenue from a crop that had already been made. This yield was in the field and would have resulted in the additional income shown as lost revenue above if not for the damage dockage.

In my opinion, the above narrative and figures justify extra attention being paid to this problem by those in the Midsouth soybean research community. It is also my opinion that a solution to this problem will likely come from soybean breeders/geneticists who can identify trait(s) that will resist or reduce this damage propensity in soybean seed, and then incorporate those trait(s) into agronomically acceptable soybean varieties. Pesticides are not the solution because of the timing of the damage occurrence and the eventual development of resistance in damage-associated pests.

Producers are not the only part of the soybean supply chain that is negatively affected by the seed damage dilemma. Buyers who purchase these damaged soybeans at the elevators are saddled with a low-quality product that is often difficult to move forward. Thus, they must work diligently to find buyers who can use the damaged product or who have enough high quality product to blend with the low quality product in order to meet the end user’s requirements.

Notes. 1) The above 25% figure for each state is an estimate–some states would have been more or less affected. 2) The assessed dockage amount is regardless of soybean commodity price; thus, the economic effect will be greater in years with lower prices, and vice versa. 3) Mature soybean seed are not affected by this malady every year; however, this malady was significant in the Midsouth in 2001 and 2009 in addition to 2017. 4) The mature seed damage problem can affect soybeans of any maturity group (MG); e.g., it occurred in 1984 when all soybeans in the Midsouth were MG V’s and later planted in May and June.

From the above narrative and figures, it is apparent that a solution to this problem will benefit all members of the soybean industry, from producer to end user.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, Jan. 2018,