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How do you know when to harvest corn?

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:21pm

Timing is critical for corn growers, because the payoff from your corn crop is right around the corner. Harvest timing is primarily determined by moisture. Yet, timing harvest is different for every farm, based upon the farm's grain handling capabilities. Some farms will harvest high moisture corn at 32-34%. Others may begin at 28% moisture if they have grain-drying systems to dry down the grain prior to storage. Many growers let the grain dry down in the field and harvest at 15% or 16% moisture.

Monitor for stalk rot problems, because stalk rot can lead to stalk lodging. If lodging happens, pre-harvest losses will occur and this costs growers money. If field scouting shows major stalk rot problems in the field, take action to ensure these cornfields get harvested first.

Earlier harvest time will help growers harvest plants that are standing better and have higher stalk quality with fewer stalks and ears on the ground. This action alone will allow growers to save on yields that would otherwise be lost.

Many factors can lead to stalk lodging. These include stress from hail or wind damage, and the presence of leaf diseases or insect problems. Corn borer infestations may cause the corn ears to drop off the stalks.

When the field is at black layer or physiological maturity at about 32 percent to 34 percent moisture, growers can conduct simple tests for stalk rot.

Squeeze test - Squeeze the lower part of the cornstalk. If the corn plant is okay, it will be firm, solid, healthy and strong. However, if the stalk is soft and spongy, consider harvesting earlier.

Kick test - Simply kick the base of the cornstalk, testing stalk strength. If the stalk falls over, harvest that cornfield sooner.

Do you have an agronomy question? Email cheryl.rainford@meredith.com. We'll send some of the most common questions to professionals in the industry and see what they say. Look for answers in upcoming Agro-Connect Ask the Experts columns.

Timing is critical for corn growers, because the payoff from your corn crop is right around the corner. Harvest timing is primarily determined by moisture. Yet, timing harvest is different for every farm, based upon the farm's grain handling capabilities. Some farms will harvest high moisture corn at 32-34%. Others may begin at 28% moisture if they have grain-drying systems to dry down the grain prior to storage. Many growers let the grain dry down in the field and harvest at 15% or 16% moisture.

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