Here's one for Mythbusters. Talk about your urban legends. For more than two decades now, we've tracked the trail of invisible yield loss for letting corn stand in the field and field dry, vs. harvesting it at higher moistures and drying it. It's a rural legend. Is it real or is it not?
After nearly 25 years, the answer is a 'maybe.' It appeared to be real in Beck's plots this year in their Practical Farm Research Work. But even though earlier harvested corn yielded more, drydown was so effective due to such hot weather leaving it in the field, that harvesting early wasn't always more profitable in 2010.
Todd Ripberger is in charge of the overall PFR program. At the southern Indiana location near Fort Branch in Gibson County, Scott Ebelhor manages the plots. The following data came from the southern location in Indiana.
The plot managers concluded there was a significant yield advantage for harvesting at higher moisture contents compared to waiting for corn to field dry. They used two hybrids, and simply harvested at four dates, ranging from Aug 16 to Sept 7 for one hybrid and Aug. 23 to Sept. 13 for the second hybrid.
However, they note, revenues increased with decreased drying cost as corn field dried. Drydown, especially at this location, was very fast compared to what's been observed in this type of test in most other years. In fact, moisture contents at the first harvest date were only 23.7% for the first hybrid, and 21.2% for the second hybrid. Normally, first harvest moisture contents are higher.
In the end this year, one hybrid didn't show any advantage in net return for harvesting at higher moisture and drying on the farm. However, the second hybrid did show a higher return when harvested at 21.2%m moisture at the first time of harvest, and then dried on-farm, vs. allowed to dry in the field. Everything went out so fast that there was no lodging effect in this year's study.
So even if invisible yield loss is real, does it pay to harvest early and dry it down to preserve the yield? What can you conclude- depends upon the hybrid? Depends upon the year?
This one may never get a clear-cut answer. Calling in the Ghostbusters might be as effective in this case as calling in Mythbusters!