The Digging Deep blog series is written by Seth Naeve, soybean agronomist at the University of Minnesota. Seth can be contacted at

It is a busy time of year on farms across the U.S. We are at the exact peak of soybean harvest and there are combines harvesting the crop in nearly every country of every soybean producing state this week. According to the latest USDA Crop Progress Report, 44% of U.S. soybeans have been harvested, as of Oct. 9, 2022.

While drought conditions will reduce soybean yields in some areas, farmers are expected to produce another large and high-quality crop in 2022. As farmers harvest the literal fruits of their labor, they are taking a sample and submitting them to the University of Minnesota for quality analyses. The Soybean Production and Physiology laboratory analyzes each sample for protein, oil, sugars, and secondary constituents like amino acids and fatty acids. Samples are also measured for moisture content, test weight, and seed size. Finally, each sample is evaluated for any foreign material. Any non-soybean seed material such as pods, stems, insects, or other seeds is separated and weighed. In this way, the percent ‘foreign material’ (FM) in each sample is established.

Over the years, the lab has found soybeans produced by US farmers to be exceptionally clean. On average FM in U.S. soybeans is around 0.2%. More than 95% of samples have FM less than 1%.

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U.S. farmers take tremendous pride in their products. Farmers strive to produce a product that has a high intrinsic value, but one that also looks good. Today’s farmers are aided by many modern technologies that assist in this effort. Farmers know that weeds in their fields reduce yields, so they take a multipronged approach to managing weeds on their farms. Farmers also work hard to keep weeds from going to seed and passing through their combines where the weed seed can mix with their soybeans. The ultramodern harvesting equipment used on today’s soybean farms are both fast and efficient. Soybeans are separated from other plant material without loss of the soybean seeds themselves. Farmers also carefully clean their grain handling equipment between crops and store their crop dry in cool bins for the winter.

For more information on US farmers’ commitment to their customers, please check out this video series that focuses on the efforts that farmers take to ensure that they produce a clean soybean crop for export.