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Ideas for Handling Wet Corn at Harvest

Mother Nature has tipped her hand- wet corn.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

September 10, 2009

3 Min Read

As another week rolled off the calendar with highs in the 70s and low 80s, it becomes more apparent that this late summer and fall won't be a repeat of last year. Looking like corn was headed for high-moisture harvest a year ago, a warm August and September, plus a very late killing frost bailed out the crop for most people. This year, however, the temperatures seem content to run about average or slightly below for this time of year, and future weather reports say to expect a normal or slightly earlier frost than normal.

That would mean wet corn to handle in Indiana. "I'm looking hard at buying a second dryer, and I know neighbors who are doing the same thing," a farmer remarked at the Farm Progress show last week. He's already decided his crop will be wet, and is looking for ways to increase drying capacity so he won't have to slow down harvest capacity.

Resigning to the fact that you won't be able to run full-blown on harvest capacity, but instead will need to allow time to dry corn is another option. Richard Stroshine, Purdue grain specialist. Here are his observations.

"It's going to start in the field," he says. "If farmers must run corn wetter than 25% moisture, they're likely to see more seed coats scratched and cut," he says. The kernel is simply more tender at that point.

"While it may not seem like a big deal at the time, it will make corn harder to store alter on, especially if you need to carry it into winter, damaged kernels will be more subject to infection."

At that point the decision is to weigh running vs. leave the crop in the field, risk field losses later, and risk damaging corn and losing yield by leaving it in the field too long. If you decide to start early, even if corn is around 30 % moisture, pay attention to combine settings, Stroshine says.

"Do whatever you can to minimize damage," he offers. "Experiment with concave settings and find one you can live with that does minimal damage to corn," he notes.

"Slow down the machine as much as you can. The whole idea is to put corn in the grain tank with as few of fines as possible."

A grain cleaner to take out those fines before corn enters the bin will also be helpful, he says.

Alternative strategy

As for storage, here's one idea to consider if you want to maintain harvest capacity as much as possible. Stroshine suggests knocking the top 6 to points off in the dryer. That assumes corn is 25% or above in the beginning. Then you can hold it for a while longer until you can get back to dry it.

You can hold corn considerable longer at 20% moisture than at 30%. Of course, this will take careful management to make sure the corn you've partially dried doesn't go out of condition until you can find time to dry it, he concluded.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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