Corn Harvest Considerations

From AgVenture's Seeds for Success Agronomy Update, October 2014

Every year is different. No exceptions. This year, many growers had early wet conditions followed by dry late growing season conditions. Jerry Hartsock, Cutting Edge Consulting, Geneseo, Illinois notes that those conditions can lead to plants cannibalizing their lower stalks and roots to feed the ear. Weak ear shanks are also noted in these conditions. Hartsock says, “If you expect corn to field dry down to 15.5% moisture and then harvest, it is highly recommended to monitor/prioritize fields for harvest as some may become very frail or fragile by then.”

Hartsock’s prioritization tips include digging up plants to examine root systems and doing the "BEND" test on 10-20 standing corn plants can yield much needed information on the condition of the plants’ integrity. Pinching lower stalks can also provide insight on which fields may need to be harvested earliest. “Fields with better drainage, well-fed and those that have had foliar fungicide applied will tend to yield higher and be more structurally sound at harvest. Fields following soybeans may also have better late season integrity than those in continuous corn.”

He adds, “Keep in mind the highest yield occurs at a black layer (32-35% grain moisture). As corn field dries, we lose significant bushels/acre (20-30) due to phantom yield losses. Combining high moisture corn at 25-30% delivers the highest yields and usually the highest returns on profit. On farm drying can usually be completed by about 1/3 of the cost of taking corn to town and paying their drying/shrinkage charges.”

Additionally, Hartsock says consider harvesting those fields first/early that are ear marked for corn again next year to get an advantage of residue breakdown via early tillage. Vertical tillage immediately following the combine in September/October takes advantage of faster breakdown due to increased microbial activity