There is cause for excitement when talking about corn today in North Dakota. We are experiencing what will likely be a state record yield by several bushels per acre, with generally great harvest conditions. In the week ending October 23, 2016, according to USDA crop progress data, we are 39% harvested with corn in North Dakota, behind last year’s pace by 17%. This is very nice progress, however, there are a few issues that have become prominent in the past week that I want to address, namely corn drydown and storage issues.
We had a very nice growing season with relatively early physiological maturity in corn. In addition, we have had a good drying season for corn in the field. We have hit a bit of stall in some parts of North Dakota due to grain moistures that are not changing very rapidly. Dr. Kenneth Hellevang has provided some insight on drying on his website, visualized by this graphic:
The take home from this visual, is that if you have corn out in the field sitting above 18% moisture, there is no way that it can become field dry due to October turning into November, and the very slow drying that November offers. Dr. Hellevang has this recommendation to growers: “Expected drying during November is limited, so I encourage people to harvest and dry using a high temperature dryer.”
The second issue, perhaps more problematic, is storage. There is a record yield predicted, and although storage for corn has increased rapidly, there is not the storage capacity for a record yield in the traditional sense of storing in grain bins. This press release from Dr. Hellevang is a great place to start thinking about all the storage options and issues: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2016/aug-15-2016/consider-pros-cons-of-alternative-grain-storage-methods
To quote Dr. Hellevang once more from personal communication: “There has been some success at placing damp corn in bags when the corn is near or below freezing temperature going into the bag and outdoor temperatures are continually below 40 degrees. The corn needs to be removed by late winter before outdoor temperatures average above 35-40 degrees and the corn temperature must be monitored and the bag emptied if heating does occur.” Additionally, “Corn at moisture contents of 18% to about 26% is too wet to store in bags… Ensiling would be expected at moisture contents in the upper 20’s.”
So there you have it from an expert in storage at NDSU. There is no easy solution and they all involve work and monitoring. The bottom line is to be sure you know the risks associated with the storage options you are choosing.