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Still got corn in the field? Don't give up yet

Agriculture.com Staff 01/08/2010 @ 12:55pm

Looking around the countryside in the nation's midsection (if you can navigate the roads), chances are you'll see some now-snowbound corn still standing, remnants of last fall's long, drawn-out harvest season.

But if thing work out just right, you stil may be able to get that grain in the bin when field conditions allow it, specialists say. And, with grain drying coming at a pretty high cost these days, some situations might net farmers more profit leaving the corn standing in the field versus having picked it before Old Man Winter arrived.

"Fields with good stalk strength and a soundly attached ear might be good candidate fields for delaying harvest; However, crop health only has one direction to go...down," according to a report from University of Wisconsin Extension agronomists Nick Schneider and Joe Lauer.

As of last month, when USDA issued its final Crop Progress report of the year (See the full report), 5% of the nation's corn crop was still in the field. Most states are from 95% to 98% finished, leaving just a few straggler fields unpicked.

But, there's still some corn out there. Depending on how much you may have left standing, is it still worth picking once you can get into the field?

There are a lot of risks with leaving corn standing (many of which obviously can't be avoided in many situations). But, despite these risks that include field conditioning ahead of this spring's planting, it's best to look beyond the rows of corn in the field and grain-drying bills and look at the big picture, Schneider and Lauer say.

"Another increased risk is the potential for more pest management problems such as more volunteer corn in the following crop. Deciding when to harvest this wet crop will be a tough decision, largely depending on weather factors outside of the grower's control," they say. "In times of great volatility, the decision that best manages risk is the most sensible."

Reports about how much corn left in the field vary around the nation's midsection. The majority of farmers say there's "a little" left in the field, though a few still say there's more than that.

"On Interstate 94 east of Jackson, Michigan, I saw a lot of large unharvested corn fields for about 30 miles," reports one farmer and Agriculture.com Crop Talk member.

That doesn't mean the combines are shut down altogether, though. Crop Talk member docharing says Ohio farmers, who saw one challenge after another last fall in trying to get the '09 crop out of the field, will continue chipping away until the corn is all in the bin.

"Central Ohio had a wet fall with wet corn loaded with vomitoxin. Farmers were waiting for a freeze-up to finish," docharing says, adding around 5% of the corn is still standing in that area. "We got the freeze along with a bunch of snow. Corn is standing good; most will be harvested by March."

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