Farmers, harvest corn as soon as possible


COLUMBUS – Recent scattered rainfall and saturated conditions generated from the remnants of Tropical Storm Isidore have arrived too late to pull Ohio’s corn out its drought-stressed state, and may even prove detrimental for farmers trying to harvest their crop.

Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, said that because of the long-term drought conditions, corn is drying down more quickly than farmers may expect. And the late-season rainfall may delay harvest, potentially contributing to yield losses.

“The corn crop has been drying down very quickly because of the very warm weather we’ve had until recently. Because it was a late planting season and, in some cases, the corn is still somewhat green, growers might think the corn isn’t as dry as it is,” said Thomison.

“The optimum level to harvest is around 24 percent and when it gets between 15 percent and 20 percent, farmers need to get in their fields to minimize harvest losses. But the recent rains may delay that.”

Get in and get out. The potential harvest delays just compound the list of problems corn growers have been facing all season due to the unusual weather conditions. A cool, wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer has created stalk lodging, or fallen stalks, in some corn hybrids another reason why farmers need to harvest as soon as possible.

“With the heavy storms we’ve had, some corn did go down and they are going down with ears on them,” said Thomison.

In addition to stalk lodging issues, recent rainfall has facilitated a rapid deterioration of the grain on some plants, which may also impact yields if farmers are unable to harvest their fields on time.

“The one thing that has surprised me is that the quality of the grain that’s on the plants is deteriorating,” said Thomison. “The husks have opened up and facilitated dry down, which is good, but the downside is they’ve got to get harvested. The ear tips are exposed promoting grain deterioration.”

Corn borers. The occurrence of European corn borer late in the growing season may also impact corn harvest.

“There are corn borers in the stalks, which will contribute to the lodging problem,” said Thomison. “Even worse, the corn borers are located around the shank of the ear and, if there are any extended harvest days, will cause a lot of ears to fall off the plants prematurely. Any ears on the ground is basically lost yield.”

Combine adjustments. Once farmers get the opportunity to harvest, they may run into actual harvesting problems due to the crop stresses. Drought conditions have resulted in smaller than normal ears and shorter than normal plants with reduced ear heights.

As a result of these conditions, some combine and harvesting adjustments may be necessary, said Thomison.

“Small ears or ears with a limited number of kernel set may not make it through the combine,” he said. The loss of one “normal” sized ear per 100 feet of row translates into a loss of more than one bushel per acre. An average harvest loss of two kernels per square foot is about one bushel per acre.


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