The Slow Dry Down & Harvest of the 2016 Grain Corn Crop

Modified from a previous Crop Chatter post made November 18, 2014.

November is here and there remains grain corn to be harvested in some parts of Manitoba. In some cases, moisture contents are still higher than wanted or wet field conditions are hampering progress. But with winter approaching, many are opting to harvest under the less than ideal conditions.

What are normal dry down rates in corn? The best dry down rates are in September. Under good weather conditions from the mid to end of September, dry down rates can vary from 0.75 to 1.0% per day (can be greater in some cases when conditions are warm, sunny and dry, or zero on cool, rainy days!). Into early October, dry down ranges from 0.5% to 0.75% per day. In late October, dry down rate will decrease to less than 0.33% per day. And into November, dry down rate will further decrease to 0.15% per day to negligible amounts.

It is important to keep in mind that moisture loss for any particular day may be higher or lower depending on the temperature, relative humidity, sunshine, wind or rain conditions that day.

However, regardless of kernel moisture content in November, if left standing the crop can dry down throughout the winter months to moisture contents below 20%.

Potential Yield Loss.  If the crop remains out longer than anticipated and into the winter months, potential yield loss will depend on many factors, including stalk strength, ear drop, snow cover or wildlife damage. Ear drop will vary by hybrid and environmental conditions as well as the amount of grain on the ear (smaller ears should stay attached better than larger ears).  Stalk strength should also be considered when evaluating harvest timing (and this includes assessments of stalk rots). Compromised stalk strength could lead to increased stalk breakage, resulting in lost yield.

If winter conditions are cool with minimal snowfall, then corn will continue to dry and can be harvested throughout the winter.

If you do find yourself in the position of needing/wanting to overwinter your corn, please touch base with your local MASC agent.

Submitted by:  Pam de Rocquigny, Provincial Cereal Crops Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture

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