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Delayed Corn Harvest Poses Risks

Since much of the corn is above the moisture content for safe storage, many farmers are hoping for additional field drying before they harvest.

With only one-third of the corn acres harvested in North Dakota, getting the crop harvested and in the bin has become a serious concern.

The corn harvest is well behind normal this year because the unusually cool summer weather delayed maturity and the recent rains have limited access to fields.

“Field drying has practically ceased with the advent of the cold weather,” says Joel Ransom, North Dakota State University Extension Service agronomist for cereal crops. “Since much of the corn is above the moisture content for safe storage, many farmers are hoping for additional field drying before they harvest so they can avoid expensive drying and handling costs.”

This is particularly important for farmers who do not have on-farm drying capacity.

“Unfortunately, with our current weather, we will be lucky if we see a full percent of moisture loss in a week,” Ransom says. “Not surprisingly, many producers are now asking what happens when harvesting is delayed to late November or December. Though there is little quantitative data on yield losses due to the delayed harvesting of corn in North Dakota, obviously there are risks associated with it. These include wildlife damage, lodging, ear drop and harvest difficulties because of snow or wet weather.”

The biggest immediate concern is losses associated with lodging. Data from Ohio State University found that lodging increased from 24 percent to 46 percent when harvesting was delayed from mid-November to mid-December and that lodging was more pronounced when the plant populations were more than 30,000 plants per acre.

“On a positive note, the stalk quality of most of the corn still in the field is still quite good, so lodging and ear drop have not been observed to be major problems at this time,” Ransom says. “However, the longer the crop is in the field, the greater the risk that lodging will occur.

“I think the message for farmers is that there will be little additional field drying of corn from now until spring, so it is probably best to harvest the corn crop sooner rather than later in order to reduce lodging and the associated loss of yield and the increase in difficulties in combining,” Ransom says.

The problem of lodging becomes more severe if the deer population is active. Wildlife-related losses can become serious if the harvest is delayed beyond mid-December.

For details on the Ohio State University study, go to http://corn.osu.edu/story.php?setissueID=109&storyID=631.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Joel Ransom, (701) 231-7405, joel.ransom@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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