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Harvesting wet corn vs. field-drying may be an issue this fall, again!

Harvesting wet corn vs. field-drying may be an issue this fall, again!
Throwback Thursday: You've faced this dilemma before. See what specialists said in 1990!

Many of you have followed Profit Planners in Indiana Prairie Farmer for decades. Here's a typical question asked to the Profit Planners Panel.

The panel changes over the years, but it usually is made up of a farmer, a farm management specialist, an Extension educator and maybe another farmer or Extension educator.

Question: Field drying costs: I got quite a bit of my corn crop planted late this spring. It will undoubtedly be wet this fall. How late will it pay to let wet corn dry in the field before field losses outweigh drying costs?

Was this question ripped from a headline this week? No, it was posed to the Profit Planners Panel in the Aug. 7, 1990 issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer!

When to harvest? How soon to start harvest and pay to dry corn was as big of a question in 1990 as it is today.

But it could have come from last week. Some corn was planted late due to a wet spring. And a relatively cool summer has corn looking like it won't be ready earlier than usual, if not later. Yet crop budgets are super-tight. Drying corn costs money. How early can you start and still make it pay?

Related: 1990s Indiana Prairie Farmer article shows how State Fair was supposed to operate:

The other factor today is that some people want to get crops off to plant cover crops if they are deep into the no-till cover crops soil health management style.

Here is what panelists said in 1990. First is Dan Gottschalk, then a banker, and more recently a teacher educator at Purdue University. He retired recently from that post.

"The answer depends upon standability of the corn and the fall weather. Conditions so far in this growing season are most ideal for development of stalk rots and insect damage. Given this and the price outlook for corn, I would be willing to spend a little more on drying cost to insure field losses are kept at a minimum."

Responding next was Larry Pumphrey, Greensburg, a hog producer and 1988 Master Farmer. He was a panelist at the time.

"My goal for corn harvest is to be finished by Nov. 1, or shortly thereafter. Chances for sufficient acceptable harvest days after that date fall off pretty fast. I would start harvest at a point that would allow me to finish by Nov. 1.

"It doesn't take very many saved bushels of corn or harvest headaches to pay for increased drying costs."

Finally, the late John Kadlec commented. He was an outstanding ag economist at Purdue University at the time, teaching farm management.

"Start harvesting as soon as corn moisture is below 30% if your drying system can handle corn with 30% moisture. The cost of drying is less than the value of field loss from delaying harvest, and risk of a major loss that could be incurred by a storm. Also, early harvest allows time for fall field operations."

If we were adding an Editor's note today to those answers, it would read:

"Since 1990 reports have surfaced about hidden field loss in bushels per acre for allowing corn to dry in the field. While it's been hard to document and may be hybrid dependent, university specialists haven't ruled it out, and the topic keeps coming back around. Many people are convinced it is real. It's worth considering."

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