Take a Ride in the Combine During Soybean Harvest:

Fall harvest of field corn and soybeans is in full swing in the Midwest! Whether it’s a long day driving the combine, grain cart, semi-truck and trailer or lunch mobile, farmers and their families are very busy this time of year.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to harvest a big field of these crops?

Farmers drive combines through their fields to cut the plants and collect the corn or soybeans. In the video below, notice how the combine discards the chaff from the back, similar to how a lawnmower leaves grass clippings on your yard. This adds nutrients back into the soil and helps control soil erosion.

To cut the soybeans, a reel pushes the plants into the combine as it moves forward very slowly. The combine cuts off the plants at ground level, then removes the soybeans from their pods and deposits them into the grain tank on top of the combine.

With this being such a busy season, some farmers don’t even stop to unload soybeans from the combine. Many times, a farmer will “unload on the go.” This requires a second driver to pull a grain cart up next to the combine and drive it alongside while the combine uses an auger to unload all the soybeans to the grain cart. The grain cart seen in this video can hold about three combine loads.

Once the grain cart is full, the driver will unload it to a semi-trailer, wagon or grain truck to be transported to the grain’s next location. In this video, the grain cart is unloading to a semi, which can hold approximately 1½ loads from the cart, or 4-5 combine loads.

For many farm families in the midst of harvesting soybeans, the dining room is a 200-acre soybean field and the dinner table is a pickup truck’s tailgate. Lunch comes in coolers and brown lunch bags and is typically eaten in record time before heading back to the task at hand.


Some farmers store their grain in bins on the farm to be sold later, while others take it directly to a grain elevator. A grain elevator includes a group of larger, taller storage buildings made from metal or concrete and designed for storing grain. After unloading at an elevator, the farmer receives a receipt, called a weight or scale ticket, for the number of bushels he or she brought.

Grain bins at an elevator have much more capacity than those typically found on farms.


After soybeans have been transported to the elevator, they will be sold to processors or exporters.

The processors crush soybeans into meal and oil, their two useful components. Farmers who raise chickens, turkeys, pigs and other livestock use almost all of the meal. Soybean oil can be used for a variety of different items, such as cooking oil, biodiesel fuel or industrial applications like adhesives, cleaners, paints, lubricants or foam in furniture or cars.

Every year, more than half of all U.S. soybeans get exported to other countries, such as China and Mexico. Exported soybeans often travel by barge or train to an export location, where they get loaded onto ships.

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