We figured we would catch one farmer when we called on the cornplanter a couple of weeks ago. Instead, he was loading out corn form the '09 harvest. His cornplanter for the '10 crop was sitting still, even though it was prime planting conditions in the prime planting window.
"I've got a bin that just isn't acting right," he says. "The more I take out, the wetter it gets. That's not how it's supposed to work. I'm going to empty this bin before conditions get any worse, then go back to the cornplanter."
Odds are that wasn't the only farmer who found himself in that situation. Maybe some were lucky enough to have an employee to keep the planter running too, but in his case, with no one else to plant, salvaging what he had already produced before conditions got worse proved to be more important.
Richard Stroshine, a Purdue University grain quality specialist, warned last fall that grain that went into bins wet that wasn't dried down properly could cause problems once the spring warm-up occurred. The other problem was grain going into the bin last fall with fungi. Although ear rots were worse in northeast Indiana, they were widespread, although more limited to certain hybrids and certain conditions in other parts of the state.
Bins where that type of corn was stored are particularly vulnerable, Stroshine says. Once grain moisture is 19 to 20%, the fungus can grow again, producing mycotoxins. Even below 19%, there are other fungi that can grow in stored grain. That's why he suggested drying corn to lower moisture levels than usual last spring, suggesting 14.5% as a good goal. Not everyone was able to obtain that level.
If you've still got corn in the bin, even if you didn't think you had ear mold problems, the best advice is to monitor it often, and be very careful working around the bin, specialists say. Take temperature readings and check for hot spots if you can. If you find a problem bin, don't put off dealing with it. This is one type of situation which isn't going away if you ignore it.
Some corn that went into storage without molds and was stored properly may continue to store into the summer. However, don't assume that description fits your bins of corn unless you're checking them regularly, specialists conclude.