Slowing down your combine reduces cracking of high-moisture corn. It's well worth it because cracks will haunt you all through drying and storage.
Growing a high-yielding corn crop is only half the battle. Gathering that grain, drying it and storing it is the other half. This year, for many farmers, the harvesting-drying-storing scenario will be more challenging than usual
because they'll be dealing with wet corn, resulting from late planting.
Here are some things to think about as you plan how to minimize grain damage and preserve yield.
Nature's way. If possible, let Mother Nature do your drying for you. "We would rather see farmers wait to harvest than bring in wet corn,” says Jack Trainor, an elevator operator in Illinois. "Farmers sometimes think we make money drying corn; but in reality, we don't like to receive it. The quality disappears at more than 20% moisture; it's expensive to dry and to maintain in the bin for several months.”
In North Dakota, where farmers slogged through a late wet harvest in 2008, "whether to leave grain to dry in the field was a big issue,” says North Dakota State University ag engineer Ken Hellevang.
"In a northern climate like ours, you have to weigh the amount of drying occurring in the field against typical field losses from delaying harvest,” Hellevang continues. "Through early October, there's usually enough drying occurring to justify leaving the corn out there. But by late October, the temperature usually is so low that less and less natural drying occurs.”
Keep tabs on how much drydown is occurring, Hellevang suggests. "Most Extension sources can tell you the typical drydown rate for your area,” he says. "And you can check what's happening with your moisture. Your meter is calibrated for dry corn, so at 25% or 30% moisture there will be a certain amount of error. But you can still get a relative idea of how the moisture content is changing.”
Some hybrids withstand the stress of high-heat drying better than others, says Jack Trainor of Trainor Grain and Supply Company in Forrest, Ill. "The difference shows up when you dry corn harvested at more than 20% moisture,” he says. "Some hybrids can be dried at 16% moisture and others can't. The result is stress cracks and loss of grain quality.”
- September 2009
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