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Pre-harvest field scouting can help determine crop maturity, stalk and root quality, or identify stalk and ear rots. Check roots for rootworm damage, use a pinch/push test to estimate stalk quality, and check ears for insect damage and mold. Based on these evaluations and the weather forecast, a harvest plan can be developed to get the most compromised grain out of the field first and help manage potential storage problems.
Delayed maturity of corn (late planting, cool growing season, or wet soil conditions) can translate into slow drydown of mature corn grain. Temperature and humidity influence the rate of drydown, which declines quickly in late September and October. Wetter grain at harvest increases the need for artificial drying of grain and increased production costs.
The risk of lodging, stalk and ear diseases, or reduced grain quality increases the longer corn is in the field. Higher grain moisture and ear rot damage can increase the amount of fine materials in the bin which can interfere with aeration or be a source of disease, mold, or toxins associated with ear rot.
The most important factor in handling high moisture corn at harvest is proper adjustments to combines:
Check the manufacturer’s recommendation for additional adjustments on harvesting wet crops.
Adjust equipment to minimize the degradation of wet grain quality:
To keep wet grain going into storage from heating and losing quality, run the aeration fan continuously whenever grain exceeds 18% moisture and grain temperature is above 50°F. The length of time corn can be kept under constant temperature and moisture content before it losses 1/2% dry matter (the maximum loss to maintain current market grade) is shown in Table 1. General rules of thumb for corn above 16% moisture are shelf life is half as long at given temperature for every 2 points of moisture greater than 16% and shelf life is half as long for every 10°F increase in temperature. Soybeans in storage have a shelf life similar to corn that is 2% greater in moisture content (Table 1).
Harvest traffic on wet soils can cause ruts and soil compaction. Ruts left in the field can create an uneven soil surface and affects seed soil contact during planting. Managing traffic patterns in fields can help minimize the detrimental effects of ruts and surface soil compaction. Traffic pattern management usually involves uniform machinery sizing and use of global positioning system (GPS) guidance of equipment. Some guidance for managing soil compaction during a wet harvest include: