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Picking up downed corn

Jeff Caldwell 10/06/2011 @ 8:50am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

A wicked wind storm hit a stretch of central and north-central Iowa in mid-July. It was as bad a time as any for such a storm -- the area's corn crop was about a week shy of pollination. Grant Kimberley thought his fields hit by the storm wouldn't make it back.

But, about 3 days later, the Maxwell, Iowa, farmer noticed his crop was bouncing back. Though some of his fields were still "goose-necked" -- a condition that would last through harvest -- the plants bent and didn't break. They survived.

But, in a closer inspection, Kimberley noticed many plants were shooting out brace roots higher up on the stalk, as some had their roots exposed by the high winds. Some plants had brace roots shooting out of the stalk as far as 4 nodes high.

"I had never seen it to this extent before. Never 3 or 4 like some of these plants had," Kimberley says. "Amazingly, we still pollinated most of our corn pretty well."


 

Maxwell, Iowa, farmer Grant Kimberley talks about the changes he has had to make in his harvest strategy to account for the damage his corn incurred from a mid-July wind storm that left his corn leaning. Though yields will be lower than normal, he says it could have been much worse.


There were a few zipper ears, he says, but not enough to totally gut yields; at harvest, Kimberley says fields that usually yield around 200 bushels/acre were making closer to 160 bushels/acre. And, the wind-blown corn took a little different management once he started running the combine.

"We started harvesting corn earlier than we normally do. We tried to get them before they were too dry and brittle and break off in the field," Kimberley says. "We're also having to dry the corn more because of that.

"We're adding a corn reel to the combine corn head to help pull in the corn as we harvest," he adds. "In some cases, we have to drive one direction if crop is leaning too badly."

In addition, Kimberley added a new tool to help him harvest his downed and leaning corn. He added John Deere's RowSense, a precision tool that helps isolate corn plant root masses and keep the header on the rows even in conditions like Kimberley's, where downed corn is common.

"It helps find the root mass and keeps you going straight. Because in some of these fields, you can't tell where the row is, especially from the combine cab. You have no idea where you're at, and you're constantly getting off," he says. "It helps, but doesn't work perfectly. Certainly helps cut down on the number of headaches."

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