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2021 Corn Harvest - Sooner & Narrower?

As the crop year progresses, or dies out in some areas, I’m compelled to get some helpful observations and thoughts out to you all. This year’s been a wild one with extreme variations from Drought for many to soaked down South.

The central plains, high plains, and upper Midwest are likely to be quite variable. The tri-state through the Northeast looks to be in better shape. Down South, we’ve had more moisture which has been welcomed for many in arid regions for the most part.

Here’s what the Drought monitor looks like currently. Our thoughts are with those farming out West - it’s extreme.

The following graphic also details how GDD are well above average, coupled with well below average moisture (for Southern WI as an example). Prof. Joe Lauer summarizes additional exemplary WI weather data here.

The corn crop is faring better for many than the crop would have been with genetics from 5 or 10 years ago. We can thank added traits and genetic advances which are helping the crop hold on. Dr. Joe Lauer commented to me last week that corn borer resistance is helping the plants manage water. Breeder and technology advancement have been fantastic!

Though with that being said, kernel and grain development may be quite different this year. We’re currently in the grain-filling period for many acres so connect with agronomists in your area and get their thoughts! If anything, the silage maturity window may be sooner and shorter this year relative to several prior.

Following drought stress, if kernels are smaller and heat units continue to grow above long term averages and plants are stressed, then whole-plant moistures may drop more quickly. Further, kernel development could be disconnected from moisture, according to an agronomist colleague who I spoke with yesterday. Rock River Lab’s InField Updates tool within the FeedScan app will be helpful to monitor both moisture and NDF/starch levels, and you’ll be able to view what’s happening within your area as the season progresses.

It’s time to work and network with your agronomist colleagues - monitor fields and talk about a game plan. This year we stand to gain by being proactive.

Here are a few harvest considerations based upon recent discussions:

  • We get one shot at the corn harvest for silage - the ramifications are year long

    • For an average dairy diet, 500 cows consume ~ $250,000 worth of silage per year

  • Begin thinking about harvest & take discussions up with your dairy/beef clients

    • Anticipate an earlier harvest with a potentially narrower window with ideal silage moisture/maturity

    • We can make adjustments if we’re a bit too soon, however we can’t push the toothpaste back in tube if we miss the moisture window

    • Harvesting drier than 35 to 37% creates fermentation and starch digestibility challenges - such as the following.

  • If corn is not going to yield an ear, and begins drying out & dying consider treating it like sorghum

    • Some are swathing the corn, wilting and harvesting

      • Proper moisture for ensiling and preservation are key

    • I advise a research backed inoculant - who knows what epiphytic bacteria may be present?

  • If you’ve got irrigated and dry land, prepare for wider variation this year

    • Walk fields, make maps according to crop conditions & plan accordingly

  • Wider variation within regions will likely play out this year as well

    • For example, in our region there are still fungicide applications going on (around VT) whereas other fields are nearing silage maturity

    • Stage fields for harvest and follow a plan

    • Consider separating extreme fields

  • Talk with local grain farmers about silage opportunities

    • Corn is expensive, so the discussions will be different this year but there may be mutually beneficial opportunities

    • Poor grain yield fields may present silage opportunities

Wishing you all a safe and prosperous harvest season. If I’m a nuisance, just let me know and I’ll adjust accordingly to remove you from my lists.

And as always, I’ll look for opportunities to be better next time! I welcome thoughts on how to continue helping out and delivering tips or tricks.

Stay tuned for some PDPW Dairy Signal and Hoard’s HD Intel content as well in the near future.

All the best


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