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Five Obstacles for #Harvest17

Lingering issues from the growing season may impact corn harvest.

The 2017 growing season is nearly in the books, which means #harvest17 is right around the corner. “It’s been an interesting season. It was a tough spring in a lot of geographies,” says Bruce Battles, head of agronomy for Syngenta seed. “You never know what kind of fall you’re going to have, either.”

Below are five common issues growers dealt with during the growing season and the ways they may impact corn harvest.

1. It was a cool, wet spring.

Cool, wet conditions impacted planting. Before the cool conditions struck, some corn had already been planted. Then it fell victim to the cool and wet conditions. “We never got the conditions to dry the soil out, so the seed just sat there in the soil,” says Battles.

That led to variation in emergence. That variation hung on the rest of the season and the corn, in most situations, wasn’t able to grow out of it. 

“There’s a lot variability within fields,” says Battles. “You can see it from the road.”

Brent Tharp, Wyffels agronomy and product training manager, has noticed a lot of unevenness throughout the countryside as well. “Some areas were forced to replant,” he says. “It seems like we’re off a few thousand plants.”

That variability will be noticeable from the combine cab.

2. We were in a hurry. Ultimately, that caused compaction.

There was a rush to get in to the field, says Battles.

You have to weigh the options: Do you deal with less-than-ideal conditions or do you wait for the perfect conditions? “In some cases, it might have been the right decision,” he says.

How do you deal with the damage? There are several approaches, says Battles. “The ultimate extreme is to move to no-till,” he says. “The short-term approach is something really aggressive. You have to go in and break up the soil as much as possible.”

3. Then there were pests.

“We’ve seen a lot of rootworm problems,” says Battles.

To manage them, Battles recommends looking at trait options.

There were some breaks though. Tharp didn’t see much for diseases this season – at least not at a concerning level.

4. Cannibalization is occurring. Harvest won’t be ideal.

Evaluate fields that will need to be harvested first.

“Dig up a plant and split the stalk in the middle all the way through the crown,” says Tharp. “Look for any discolored tissue. You don’t want any air pockets.”

If air pockets are present, the plant was starting to cannibalize itself to fill the ear. “It’s going to fill that ear at all costs,” says Tharp. “It’s going to take from itself and distribute the sugars to fill the ear.”

To check the standability, Tharp recommends the pinch test. Pinch the stalk 6 inches above the ground, he says. If it collapses easily, that field should be moved up the harvest schedule. However, if it withstands the pressure, it still has decent stalk rind and should be able to stay in the field longer.

5. The crop is behind.

“Plan for a wetter harvest,” says Tharp. “It’s cooler than normal. There won’t be a heat wave that will move in to finish this crop.”

You need to prepare for mechanical drying, says Tharp. “If you are waiting for field drying, you’re asking corn to stay out in the field for a long time. Then it’s susceptible to Mother Nature, and you’re going to have ear loss.”

Drying economics will be important this fall.

“You have to think about drying economics,” says Tharp. “I like to see people out there harvesting when it’s 20% to 25% grain moisture. If you start getting to 17% and below, you expose yourself to loss. But if you take it to town, you have to figure out what you will be charged to dry it.”

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