Stalk Quality Concerns

Source: Peter Thomison, Pierce Paul, OSU Extension

2019 may be an especially challenging year for corn stalk quality in Ohio. Stress conditions increase the potential for stalk rot that often leads to stalk lodging (Fig. 1).  This year persistent rains through June caused unprecedented planting delays. Saturated soils resulted in shallow root systems. Corn plantings in wet soils often resulted in surface and in-furrow compaction further restricting root growth. Since July, limited rainfall in much of the state has stressed corn and marginal root systems have predisposed corn to greater water stress.

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Managing Corn Harvest this Fall with Variable Corn Conditions

Source:  Jason Hartschuh, Elizabeth Hawkins, James Morris, Will Hamman, OSU Extension

Thanks to the weather we had this year, corn is variable across fields and in some areas we will be harvesting corn at higher moistures than normal. Stalk quality may also be variable by field and amount of stress the plant was under, see the article Stalk Quality Concerns in this weeks CORN Newsletter. This variability and high moisture may require us to look harder at combine settings to keep the valuable grain going into the bin. Each ¾ pound ear per 1/100 of an acre equals 1 bushel of loss per acre. This is one ear per 6, 30 inch rows in 29 feet of length. A pre harvest loss assessment will help with determining if your combine is set properly. Initial settings for different combines can be found in the operator’s manual but here are a few adjustments that can be used to help set all machines. Thanks to the weather we had this year, corn is variable across fields and in some areas we will be harvesting corn at higher moistures than normal. Stalk quality may also be variable by field and amount of stress the plant was under, see the article Stalk Quality Concerns in this weeks CORN Newsletter. This variability and high moisture may require us to look harder at combine settings to keep the valuable grain going into the bin. Each ¾ pound ear per 1/100 of an acre equals 1 bushel of loss per acre. This is one ear per 6, 30 inch rows in 29 feet of length. A pre harvest loss assessment will help with determining if your combine is set properly. Initial settings for different combines can be found in the operator’s manual but here are a few adjustments that can be used to help set all machines.

Corn Head

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Is a late soybean harvest in your future?

Source: James Morris, Will Hamman, Jason Hartschuh, Elizabeth Hawkins

The variability of the 2019 cropping year is continuing into harvest. With a broad range of planting dates this spring, many soybean producers will be faced with variable harvest conditions. Additionally, the hot and dry conditions this late summer into early fall has sped up the senescence and dry down of many soybean fields. While seed quality is currently very good, a few weeks of wet weather can degrade quality quickly. Be sure you are ready when the soybeans are.

When harvesting soybeans, harvest loss can be a real concern. The ideal time to harvest soybeans is when the soybean seed reaches 12-15% moisture. This will allow for optimal threshing and reduced harvest loss. Harvest loss can be very simply calculated by getting out of the combine and counting the soybean seeds on the ground. By randomly selecting a 1-foot by 1-foot area in a harvested part of the field, a producer can estimate harvest loss. Counting 4 soybean seeds per square foot is equal to 1 bushel/acre of loss. Due to the mechanical nature of a combine it is nearly impossible to gather every soybean seed in the field. An acceptable level of loss is 3% of yield or less, which is equivalent to 1-2 bushels/acre. If harvest conditions and combine adjustments are not optimal, harvest loss can reach 10% of yield and that can become very costly to the producer. Continue reading

Corn Grain Test Weight

Source: R.L. Nielsen, Purdue Univ. (edited)

Among the top 10 most discussed (and cussed) topics at the Chat ‘n Chew Cafe during corn harvest season is the grain test weight being reported from corn fields in the neighborhood. Test weight is measured in the U.S. in terms of pounds of grain per volumetric “Winchester” bushel. In practice, test weight measurements are based on the weight of grain that fills a quart container (37.24 qts to a bushel) that meets the specifications of the USDA-FGIS (GIPSA) for official inspection (Fig. 1). Certain electronic moisture meters, like the Dickey-John GAC, estimate test weight based on a smaller-volume cup. These test weight estimates are reasonably accurate but are not accepted for official grain trading purposes.

The official minimum allowable test weight in the U.S. for No. 1 yellow corn is 56 lbs/bu and for No. 2 yellow corn is 54 lbs/bu (USDA-GIPSA, 1996). Corn grain in the U.S. is marketed on the basis of a 56-lb “bushel” regardless of test weight. Even though grain moisture is not part of the U.S. standards for corn, grain buyers pay on the basis of “dry” bushels (15 to 15.5% grain moisture content) or discount the market price to account for the drying expenses they expect to incur handling wetter corn grain.

Growers worry about low test weight because local grain buyers often discount their market bids for low test weight grain. In addition, growers are naturally disappointed when they deliver a 1000 bushel (volumetric bushels, that is) semi-load of grain that averages 52-lb test weight because they only get paid for 929 56-lb “market” bushels (52,000 lbs ÷ 56 lbs/bu) PLUS they receive a discounted price for the low test weight grain. On the other hand, high test weight grain makes growers feel good when they deliver a 1000 bushel semi-load of grain that averages 60 lb test weight because they will get paid for 1071 56-lb “market” bushels (60,000 lbs ÷ 56 lbs/bu).

These emotions encourage the belief that high test weight grain (lbs of dry matter per volumetric bushel) is associated with high grain yields (lbs. of dry matter per acre) and vice versa. However, there is little evidence in the research literature that grain test weight is strongly related to grain yield.

Hybrid variability exists for grain test weight, but does not automatically correspond to differences in genetic yield potential. Grain test weight for a given hybrid often varies from field to field or year to year, but does not automatically correspond to the overall yield level of an environment.

Similarly, grain from high yielding fields does not necessarily have higher test weight than that from lower yielding fields. In fact, test weight of grain harvested from severely stressed fields is occasionally higher than that of grain from non-stressed fields, as evidenced in Fig. 2 for 27 corn hybrids grown at 3 locations with widely varying yield levels in Kansas in 2011. Another example from Ohio with 22 hybrids grown in common in the drought year of 2012 and the much better yielding year of 2013 also indicated no relationship between yield level and grain test weight (Fig. 3).

Conventional dogma suggests that low test weight corn grain decreases the processing efficiency and quality of processed end-use products like corn starch (U.S. Grains Council, 2018), although the research literature does not consistently support this belief. Similarly, low test corn grain is often thought to be inferior for animal feed quality, although again the research literature does not support this belief (Rusche, 2012Simpson, 2000Wiechenthal Pas et al., 1998). Whether or not low test weight grain is inferior to higher test weight grain may depend on the cause of the low test weight in the first place.

Common Causes of Low Grain Test Weight

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Converting Wet Corn Weight to Dry Corn Weight

Source: Bob Nielsen, Purdue University

Corn is often harvested at grain moisture contents higher than the 15% moisture typically desired by grain buyers. Wetter grain obviously weighs more than drier grain and so grain buyers will “shrink” the weight of “wet” grain (greater than 15% moisture) to the equivalent weight of “dry” grain (15% moisture) and then divide that weight by 56 to calculate the market bushels of grain they will purchase from the grower.

The two sources of weight loss due to mechanical drying are 1) the weight of the moisture (water) removed by the drying process and 2) the anticipated weight loss resulting from the loss of dry matter that occurs during the grain drying and handling processes (e.g., broken kernels, fines, foreign materials). An exact value for the handling loss, sometimes called “invisible shrink”, is difficult to predict and can vary significantly from one grain buyer to another. For a lengthier discussion on grain weight shrinkage due to mechanical drying, see Hicks & Cloud, 1991.

The simple weight loss due to the removal of grain moisture represents the greatest percentage of the total grain weight shrinkage due to drying and is easily calculated using a handheld calculator or a smartphone calculator app. In general terms, you first convert the “wet” weight (greater than 15% moisture) to absolute dry weight (0% moisture). Then you convert the absolute dry weight back to a market-standard “dry” weight at 15% grain moisture.

Concept:

  1. The initial percent dry matter content depends on the initial grain moisture content. For example, if the initial grain moisture content is 20%, then the initial percent dry matter content is 80% (e.g., 100% – 20%).
  2. If the desired ending grain moisture content is 15% (the typical market standard), then the desired ending percent dry matter content is 85% (100% – 15%).
  3. Multiply the weight of the “wet” grain by the initial percent dry matter content, then divide the result by the desired ending percent dry matter content.

Example:

  1. 100,000 lbs of grain at 20% moisture = 80,000 lbs of absolute dry matter (i.e., 100,000 x 0.80).
  2. 80,000 lbs of absolute dry matter = 94,118 lbs of grain at 15% moisture (i.e., 80,000 / 0.85).
  3. 94,118 lbs of grain at 15% moisture = 1681 bu of grain at 15% moisture (i.e., 94,118 / 56).

One take-home reminder from this little exercise is the fact that the grain trade allows you to sell water in the form of grain moisture… up to a maximum market-standard 15% grain moisture content (or 14% for long term storage). Take advantage of this fact and maximize your “sellable” grain weight by delivering corn grain to the elevator at moisture levels no lower than 15% moisture content. In other words, if you deliver corn to the elevator at grain moisture contents lower than 15%, you will be paid for fewer bushels than you otherwise could be paid for.

 

Fall Herbicide Treatments – Even More Important This Year?

Source: Dr. Mark Loux, OSU

If you have never applied herbicide in fall to burn down winter annuals, or done it only infrequently, this might be the year to make an investment in fall herbicides.  Fall treatments are an integral component of marestail management programs.  They also prevent problems with dense mats of winter annuals in the spring, which can prevent soil from drying out and warming up, interfere with tillage and planting, and harbor insects and soybean cyst nematode.  2019 was a generally tough year for weed control, leading to higher end of season weed populations in some fields.  A number of acres were never planted, and growers got to experience the difficulty in obtaining season-long control in the absence of a crop.  Reminds us all how important the crop canopy and shading of the soil is during the second half of the season.  Bottom line – there was substantial production of weed seed in some fields, and a replenishment of the soil seedbank by both winter annual and summer annual weeds.  The seed of winter annuals and marestail lacks dormancy so above-average weed seed production can lead to an immediate increase in fall-emerging weeds.  Applying herbicides this fall can compensate for increased weed populations and make life easier in the spring.

We have published information on fall herbicides fairly frequently, and our suggestions for fall treatments have not really changed much.  There is plenty of information on fall herbicide treatments in the C.O.R.N. newsletter archive and on other university websites.  Our philosophy on this has not changed much over the past decade.  A few brief reminders follow:

1.  When to spray?  Anytime between now and Thanksgiving will work, and possibly later.  We have applied into late December and still eventually controlled the weeds present at time of application.  Once hard freezes start to occur, there is usually a substantial change in the condition of certain weeds, such as dandelion and thistle, that renders them less sensitive to herbicides.  We discourage applications during periods of very cold weather which can occur starting about Thanksgiving, and also (obviously) when the ground is snow-covered.  The generally dry conditions we are experiencing have limited weed emergence so far this fall.  We anticipate that rain occurring now that leads to some sustained soil moisture near the surface will likely result in germination and emergence of the weeds that have been missing until now.  Our recommendation is to wait for rain and the additional weed emergence before applying any herbicide this fall.  The risk in this is that the weather turns wet, making it difficult to apply herbicide.  So it’s also possible to apply now and include a residual component to help with later fall emergence (which is the exception to the “no residual” recommendation in #4 below), such as simazine, a low rate of metribuzin or Canopy, or a Sharpen rate higher than 1 oz.

2.  What about all of the crop residue on the ground after harvest – won’t that cause problems?  We have not worried about this, and the herbicides seem to work regardless.  Most agronomists I have asked have the same impression.  On the other hand, it probably wouldn’t hurt to wait a while after harvest to let the residue settle down, and the weeds to poke through.  Dense crop residue usually prevents marestail from emerging anyway. Continue reading

Late-season Frost Effects on Corn: Grain Production (Adapted from Dr. J. Lauer, Univ. of Wisconsin)

The following is information on the effects of late-season frost injury to corn from an article by Dr. Joe Lauer, Corn Extension Specialist at the University of Wisconsin (http://corn.agronomy.wisc.edu/Management/L041.aspx). 

Freezing temperatures before physiological maturity will damage corn. Maturity in corn occurs when kernels form a black layer at the kernel tip, grain will be at approximately 30 to 35 percent moisture. After maturity, no additional dry matter will be accumulated in the seed. In addition to creating quality problems, premature frost will reduce the yield of dry grain.

Temperatures required to kill corn plants

Corn is killed when temperatures are near 32 F for a few hours, and when temperatures are near 28 F for a few minutes (Carter and Hesterman, 1990). A damaging frost can occur when temperatures are slightly above 32 F and conditions are optimum for rapid heat loss from the leaves to the atmosphere, i.e. clear skies, low humidity, no wind. At temperatures between 32 to 40 F, damage may be quite variable and strongly influenced by small variations in slope or terrain that affect air drainage and thermal radiation, creating small frost pockets. Field edges, low lying areas, and the top leaves on the plant are at greatest risk. Greener corn has more frost resistance than yellowing corn.

Symptoms of frost damage will start to show up about 1 to 2 days after a frost. Frost symptoms are water soaked leaves that eventually turn brown. Because it is difficult to distinguish living from dead tissue immediately after a frost event, the assessment should be delayed 5 to 7 days.

Grain quality impact Continue reading

Fire Safety During Harvest Season

Source:  Dee Jepsen, OSU

Meteorologists would likely correct us if we referred to this year’s summer climate as bipolar. However, the early fall rain patterns seem to be completely different depending on where one stands in the state. It is either rain, and lots of it – or dry, on the verge of drought. So when readers see an article about fire safety for harvest season, it is intended for those encountering dry and windy conditions, whenever these conditions appear.

October and November are two months where fire is a particular concern. In agricultural areas, fires can break out during unseasonably warm temperatures. Fire risks are particularly a concern around fields with dry crop residues, near woodland areas, or within equipment with heated bearings, belts, and chains. There are several aspects to consider for fire prevention and fire protection during harvest season.

Preventing Combine Fires

Combines are at high risk of fire. Work crews should take extra precautions to prevent fires from starting.

  • Park a hot combine away from out-buildings. Keeping a combine out of barns, shed, and away from other flammables is a common prevention strategy in case a hot spot ignites. Insurance claims can double when equipment fires are responsible for loss of farm structures.
  • Regular maintenance is priority. Check the machine daily for any overheated bearings or damage in the exhaust system. Keep the fittings greased. Maintain proper coolant and oil levels. Repair fuel or oil hoses, including fittings and metal lines, if they appear to leak.
  • Keep dried plant material from accumulating on the equipment. Frequently blow dry chaff, leaves and other crop materials that have accumulated on the equipment with a portable leaf blower or air compressor. Be sure to inspect the engine compartment and other areas where chaff accumulates around bearings, belts and other moving parts.
  • Maintain the electrical system. Pay attention to machine components that draw a heavy electrical load, such as starter motors and heating/cooling systems. Monitor circuits for any overloading, especially if fuses blow regularly. Keep wiring in good condition and replace frayed wiring or worn out connectors.
  • Refuel a cool engine whenever possible. Never refuel a combine with the engine running. It is recommended to turn off the engine and wait 15 minutes; this helps to reduce the risk of a spill volatilizing and igniting.
  • Prevent static electricity while operating in a dry field. Use a ground chain attached to the combine frame to prevent static charges from igniting dry chaff and harvest residue, letting the chain drag on the ground while in the field.
  • Have 2 fully charged fire extinguishers on the combine.  ABC fire extinguishers are recommended on farm machinery. In a combine, keep a 10-pound unit in the cab and a 20-pound unit mounted at ground level.
  • Have 1 fully charged fire extinguisher in the tractor, grain cart, and pickup truck. ABC fire extinguishers are recommended on farm machinery. These extinguishers are good for fires at incipient phases – meaning at the first sign of smoke or a small flame.

When a fire appears, it is important to put worker protection before saving equipment.

  • Have an emergency plan in place and be sure all employees know the plan. Combine fires happen fast – be sure all employees know what to do if smoke or fire appears.
  • Turn off the engine. If in the combine cab, turn off the engine and exit the machine.
  • Call 911 before using the fire extinguishers. If the fire is in the cab, only use the 10-pound fire extinguisher from the outside of the cab – on the exterior platform. If the fire is on the ground, use caution when opening the engine compartment or other hatches as small fires can flare with extra air. Stay a safe distance away from the fire.
  • Use a shovel on small field debris fires. Throwing dirt over burning field residue can stop a fire from spreading. However, stay back if the fire takes off.

 

October 2019 – Weather Prediction

Source: Jim Noel

After another hot week (until late this week), a cool down to normal temperatures is expected starting either Oct. 3 or 4 that will last through Oct. 15. Temperatures are expected to return to above normal (but no where near current levels) from Oct. 15-31.

Rainfall will be above normal in northern Ohio this week. The week of Oct. 7 will be normal or below normal but confidence is next week’s rainfall pattern is low to moderate. Above normal rainfall is in the outlook for the second half of October which could slow harvest after Oct. 15.

The hot and drier pattern for a good part of September was caused in part by tropical activity. The remnants of Dorian created a big low pressure system not far from Greenland while a typhoon called Lingling in the western Pacific created a big low pressure near Alaska. This resulted in a hot and dry dome of high pressure over the Southeast U.S. and wet weather in the western corn and soybean belt.

This pattern appears ready to breakdown later this week.

We are moving into frost and freeze season and overall it still looks like a delayed frost and freeze season. Most see their first freeze by Oct. 10-20.  Currently, it still looks like a normal to later than normal first freeze.

The November outlook still indicates a warmer than normal month with precipitation not far from normal (but with a lot of uncertainty). We will keep you posted on this.

Finally, the two week rainfall outlook from OHRFC can be found here:

https://www.weather.gov/images/ohrfc/dynamic/NAEFS16.apcp.mean.total.png .

It shows the wettest areas being the western two-thirds of the corn and soybean belt. Rainfall for the next two weeks in Ohio will be 1-2+ inches in northern Ohio but generally 0.10-0.50 inches in southern Ohio. Normal is about 1.5 inches for two weeks.

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