In Mark Maple’s neck of the woods in north-central Indiana, the crops are all over the board. “Where the corn’s good, it’s good, but we have drown outs, replanted areas and places we couldn’t plant until late June,” he says. The same is true for Jeff Huitt in central Iowa. “We’re preparing for additional expenses — comparing propane cost for our dryer and putting up grain in our bins versus going to an elevator with wetter grain.” Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie shares the following tips to help farmers plan for the worst, while hoping for the best:
1. Know How Many Days You Need To Harvest
This will help you allocate equipment and labor but know that Mother Nature might intervene. “If you can harvest 80 acres per day, and you have 4,000 acres to harvest, you need 50 days of actual harvesting time,” Ferrie says. “But that number is in addition to days lost to rain, snow or mechanical breakdowns.”
2. Prioritize Fields
In light of a challenging planting season, Maple is keeping an eye out for standability issues, knowing some fields might be more prone to lodging.
Check 10 plants in four or five locations by pushing the corn plant to a 35° to 45° angle from the vertical position. If the plant readily falls over and doesn’t return to its upright position, there’s most likely some stalk rot occurring. You can also squeeze the base of the corn plant at the first node. If the stalk feels spongy there’s probably stalk rot. Affected fields need to be harvested first.
That might mean going into multiple fields to take out a specific hybrid that’s in trouble, Ferrie says, and then returning to those fields to harvest other hybrids not in trouble later.
If all fields are standing equally, you might want to organize harvest around field drainage, Ferrie says. “If a field tends to get wet, harvest it while it’s dry enough to support combines, grain carts and trucks. This is especially important in no-till and strip-till conditions. It might require moving equipment a little more often, but that’s better than leaving tracks and ruts to deal with later.”
3. Consider Your Harvest Team
Do you have the right people lined up to help you? Consider if you should hire an extra crew — one to get the crop out of the field and another to come in after the combine to handle tillage, soil sampling and fertilizer applications.
4. Adjust On The Fly
Alter combine settings as needed to maintain grain quality. “Even a light shower can turn a well-adjusted combine into a seed spreader,” Ferrie says. “Monitor harvest loss every day and with every hybrid.” (Learn more on page 14.)
5. Spread Residue Evenly
“Spreading residue uniformly is easier to do in corn than in soybeans,” Ferrie says. “But it’s becoming more important in soybeans as yields increase and headers get wider. You might have to purchase add-on equipment to supplement the spreader that came on the combine. Calibrate your spreading equipment. Use harvest direction and wind direction to help obtain an even spread.”
6. Don’t Avoid Drying Corn
Ferrie is concerned farmers are going to resist drying corn because of the additional costs involved. “I think some farmers are going to hang on into November, and that’s going to work against them,” he says. “By then, they’ve screwed up fall burndown and fall tillage and started impacting the 2020 crop.”