Forty five percent of the corn crop in North Dakota yet to be harvested, based on the North Dakota Ag Statistics Services' Oct. 28 Crop Condition report
Only 55% of the crop had been harvested, compared to nearly 75% at the same time a year ago. The five year average for this time however is 57% harvest.
"Some farmers, particularly those who do not have on-farm drying facilities, are delaying their corn harvest in the hopes that moisture levels will drop sufficiently so that grain can be safely handled and stored," says Joel Ransom, North Dakota State University Extension Service agronomist.
Others are dealing with weather-related delays or struggling with the extra acres added this season.
"Many producers are now asking what happens when harvesting is delayed to late fall or early winter," Ransom says. "Though there is little quantitative data on yield losses due to delayed harvesting of corn in our state, there are obviously risks associated with it. These include wildlife damage, lodging, ear drop and harvest difficulties because of snow or wet weather."
Data from research conducted by Peter Thomison and co-workers at Ohio State University sheds additional light on the problems associated with delayed harvesting. The multiyear study found that most losses occur if the corn harvest is delayed beyond Nov. 15.
"The vast majority of losses were associated with lodging, so not surprisingly, hybrids with poor stalk strength had greater losses," Ransom says. "Losses were greatest when higher populations were used because higher densities reduced stalk strength and predisposed the crop to lodging. Finally, there was little additional drying when the harvest was delayed beyond Nov. 15."
It is safe to assume that fields that experienced moisture stress during grain filling in North Dakota this year probably are the most prone to lodging and late-season losses.
"Don't count on any additional field drying after early November is the take-home message," Ransom says. "To minimize losses, harvest the most lodging-susceptible fields first because lodging tends to be the major cause of loss."
Ransom suggests using hybrids that mature early enough to avoid having to deal with excess moisture in early November and selecting hybrids that are known to have good stalk characteristics when planning for next year's corn crop.
"Of course, if you have active deer populations or a moose or two working your field, expect even greater losses," Ransom says.
NDSU Extension Communications provided information for this article.