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Corn+Soybean Digest

Dry Weather Means Early Corn Harvest

“There will be an opportunity for more field drying, which will reduce drying costs,” says Dale Hicks, agronomist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. However, the dry weather stress has caused premature dying as the plants have shut down. “This will likely result in increased stalk lodging and ear droppage,” Hicks says.

He advises corn growers to evaluate fields for ear droppage potential and harvest those fields first that appear to have the greatest potential for yield losses.

If the weather is sunny and breezy, corn will normally dry about three-fourths of 1% to 1%/day during the early warmer part of the harvest season, from mid- through late September. By early to mid-October, dry-down rates will usually drop to one-half to three-fourths percent per day, Hicks says.

So with earlier maturity, there is more time during the early part of the harvest season when air temperatures are higher, and that means more rapid drying rates. “It may be possible to leave corn in the field to dry to levels low enough so that little to no drying will be required,” Hicks says. And with high LP gas costs and lower yields due to the dry weather, Hicks says saving drying costs will help preserve some profitability.

However, the potential for higher field losses due to stalk lodging and ear droppage is the tradeoff. The dry weather stress has caused cannibalization of plant sugars from the stalk to the grain. That leaves stalks and ear shanks that are weak and susceptible to early stalk rot. And the organisms that cause stalk rot also grow and develop more quickly at higher temperatures, which compounds the potential for early stalk rot development.

Weakened stalks and shanks could mean lodging and ear droppage, which may slow harvest and increase harvest losses. Hicks says the droppage of one "normal" sized ear per 100 feet of row in 30-in. spaced rows equals a loss of 1 bu./acre.

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