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Identifying fields that have standability, disease, stress, uneven maturity, or moisture content issues will help increase efficiency during harvest and minimize in-field losses.
Relative maturity and planting date can help estimate harvest time. Field history, crop rotation, the type of stress (environmental, pest, nutrient leaching, and others) can help predict which fields may have uneven maturity or fields that will need to be harvested early. With that information, you can do a pre-harvest survey of fields to find other issues that may require early harvesting to avoid harvest losses.
Consider monitoring corn for stalk quality as soon as black layer (physiological maturity) occurs. Scout different areas of the field and use the push or pinch tests (process stated in Stalk Rots and Lodging in Corn) to identify weak stalks. Split lower portions of stalks to assess stalk strength and determine if the stalks are discolored, shredded, or hollow. If more than 10% of the stalks in a field are rotted or prone to lodging, consider scheduling the field for early harvest. Also, inspect ears for rots and test ear shanks for weakness and potential ear drop.
Grain moisture content should start to be monitored soon after physiological maturity (black layer). Shoot for a harvest moisture content level that balances harvest losses and grain drying costs. A plan to take advantage of a rapid drydown and allow everything to field dry could be costly. Harvesting at lower moistures can increase mechanical losses due to ear drop, stalk lodging, and kernel shattering. Consider beginning harvest when corn grain moisture content is a little above 25% so that harvesting can be finished before corn dries completely in the field.1
Check soybean standability, as moist, fertile soils may increase vegetative growth and can lead to tall, leggy plants that may lodge. Yield potential is most affected if lodging occurs during beginning seed (R5) growth stage.2,3 Pod and stem diseases can be more problematic in lodged beans. Harvest losses due to soybean lodging can vary from 3 to 10% depending on a several of factors.2
As you survey soybeans for diseases, be alert for sudden death syndrome (SDS). Fields that do not have white mold should be harvested before white mold-infested fields, to be sure the combine does not deposit any residual sclerotia in the non-infested fields.
1 McNeill, S. and Montross, M. Corn harvesting, handling, drying, and storage. Pages 52-58. University of Kentucky Extension. http://www.ca.uky.edu. 2 Woods, S.J. and Swearingin, M.L. 1977. Influence of simulated early lodging upon soybean seed yield and its components. Agronomy Journal. 69: 239-242. 3 Holshouser, D. 2011. Hurricane Irene may be beneficial to Virginia soybeans… still lodging will lower yield potential. Virginia Cooperative Extension. 160831122411