Leaving corn standing in the fields may not be the best crop decision to make this year

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COLUMBUS — Ohio growers waiting to harvest their corn most likely won’t see a significant decrease in grain moisture, but run the risk of increased stalk lodging, moldy ears and yield losses the longer corn sits in the fields.

Harvest promptly

Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension corn agronomist, said that unfavorable weather might be keeping growers out of their fields, but they should harvest as promptly as possible. “We have a fantastic crop out there with yields averaging above 200 bushels per acre in many fields. Why let that crop go down the tube waiting on grain to dry down, which is questionable at this late date?” said Thomison, who also holds an appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Thomison points to research he and his colleagues conducted a few years ago, evaluating the state of corn hybrids the longer they stayed in the field.

Research found

What the researchers found was that the longer corn was left in the field, the more yield loss was experienced — an average of 11 percent between mid-November and mid-December.

He added that the results of the research suggest that corn can tolerate a harvest delay until mid-November without major yield losses, but after that is when things start falling apart

After mid-November harvest delays begin to exact a toll on corn left standing in the field. In some years, data showed yield losses as low as 5 percent, but in other cases it was as high as 24 percent.

Problems arise

Thomison said that yield losses are closely associated with stalk lodging, especially with hybrids that are sensitive to stalk rots. Another major concern with leaving corn in the field too long is grain quality. Ears subjected to prolonged wet conditions can turn moldy, potentially contaminating grain with mycotoxins that are harmful to livestock.

Corn harvest

According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, 76 percent of Ohio’s corn crop has been harvested, behind last year as well as the five-year average. Thomison said that farmers either can’t harvest their corn because of unfavorable field conditions or are waiting for the corn to dry down further.

“Perhaps the most striking finding about the research we conducted was that we didn’t see a significant decrease in grain moisture after mid-November. We saw grain moisture decrease 6.3 percent between mid-October and mid-December, but only 0.5 percent of that dry-down occurred after mid-November,” said Thomison.

Not the year

Thomison said that in recent years farmers have experienced good growing conditions that have allowed them to leave corn in the field longer than they probably should.

But he cautions this is probably not the year to do be doing that. The last time growers faced delayed harvest issues on this scale was in 1992, when cool, wet conditions in the fall kept some growers out of their fields until that winter.

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