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Ease Worries with Pre-Harvest Prep

08/31/2013 @ 5:17am

Ever since the cicadas began to sing in mass, folks have been predicting when the first frost will hit. More than one Midwest farmer is worried about how frost will impact late developing corn.  While it may give us something to talk about, the first frost is beyond our control.  

“Worry is not preparation,” so let’s instead channel our energies into preparing for harvest.  Make a pre-harvest check list to ensure you’re ready, regardless of when harvest begins.  To preserve maximum yield, you may need to harvest at higher moisture levels this fall.  In addition to having combines and other equipment in tip-top condition, it’s important that drying facilities are clean and ready for use. 

You can also prepare now by prioritizing corn fields for harvest.  Fields under stress from either too much water this spring or a lack of rain this summer will warrant special harvest considerations.  Closely watch those fields that show nitrogen deficiencies as the potential for stalk rot increases when nitrogen leaches.  Plants need enough nitrogen to fill the kernels plus maintain plant health.  

Check stalk strength by pinching the lower internodes on the plant and feel for weakness.  The root mass can affect the plant’s ability to stand up against late-season winds.  Late-season heat may also affect the ear shank.  If the shank gets weak from heat, it usually kinks or has a sharp bend.  A high-yielding hybrid may also cannibalize itself to maximize yield.  To check for these issues, walk into a field and shake the plants.  Watch to see if ears fall.  

Roots can be more of an issue than stalks in a wet spring like we experienced.  Saturated soils limit the growth of root hairs and brace roots, making the total root mass much smaller.  If those plants grow close to full size, that puts a lot of stress on the plant later in the year –either it may not have the ability to take up enough nutrients or the plants may lodge if there is a late-season wind or wind and rain event. 

Plan for the worst and hope for the best, as the old saying goes.  With so many consecutive days of excessively high temperatures, it’s hard to imagine it being cool enough frost anytime soon.  Hopefully mild temperatures are on their way – and will last well into October.  If the weather should take a turn for the worse, however, at least you won’t be caught off guard.

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