When corn is slow to develop and continues to mature into the fall, harvest management and grain handling becomes increasingly important: In fact, it’s critical to guard against lost income due to reduced yields and poor grain quality.
Corn can be significantly wetter with a late harvest, resulting in higher drying costs and mechanical damage to grain. In addition, freezing temperatures occurring before normal crop maturity (i.e., prior to kernel black-layer development) also may reduce corn yields.
Consider these management tips from experts at DuPont Pioneer.
First, while you wait for grain to dry before harvesting, you can explore a number of actions:
- Use your field notes regarding silking to predict the order in which fields will reach black-layer development and harvestable moisture.
- Consider harvesting (or selling) more of your crop as silage or high-moisture corn.
- Explore locking in a price for the additional fuel needed for grain drying. Compare fuel costs to possible dockage for shrink if wet corn is delivered to the elevator.
- Consider some field drying if grain moisture levels are high, but don’t wait too long: Wet field conditions can keep combines out of the field as crops deteriorate, and winter weather may increase harvest losses due to ear droppage and stalk breakage.
Second, adjust your combine settings to harvest wet grain. Some agricultural engineers suggest beginning your harvest with combine settings that would likely under-thresh a typical, lower-moisture crop:
- Set cylinder/rotor speed near the low end of the suggested range.
- Set concave clearance near the widest recommended setting.
- Open the chaffer and sieve to the maximum recommended openings.
- Consult with the combine manufacturer for machine-specific recommendations and check the settings often, readjusting as needed.
Third, to minimize quality issues with wet or immature grain, follow optimum grain-storage procedures:
- Drying temperatures need to be adjusted for corn of 25–30 percent moisture content or higher to avoid scorching grain and causing stress cracks that increase kernel breakage.
- Screen grain — then “core” bin to eliminate broken kernels and fines that accumulate in the center and level grain to minimize moisture at the top.
- Maintain aeration until grain moisture reaches equilibrium.
- Monitor stored grain by checking every two weeks.
Learn more about harvesting and managing a delayed corn crop from DuPont Pioneer.
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