Disease will factor prominently into the story when agronomists summarize the 2016 growing season for corn across the Corn Belt. Especially in the southern half of the Corn Belt, disease reached high levels late in the season. Foliar diseases such as gray leaf spot and southern rust set cornfields up for stalk rots and ear rots. Fields with ear rots pose special problems.
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Some farmers in areas where ear rots were spotted near harvesttime say only a small percentage of was grain damaged. Some say they didn’t receive docks when hauling straight to the elevator from the field. Others have reported significant dockage for damaged grain. The damage was often due to diplodia, gibberella or fusarium ear rot, but some kernel rots also appeared this year.
The bigger question comes when you elect to store grain with damaged kernels on the farm. How will it fare in storage? Gary Woodruff, GSI conditioning applications manager, says that depends upon the measures you took before binning the corn, and how you handle it once it's in storage.
GSI, a division of Agco, issued a press release where Woodruff outlines ways to minimize loss when storing corn with ear rot or kernel rot damage. Here are nine tips to minimize loss.
1. Complete harvest soon. If you’re still waiting for corn to field-dry and it has ear rot in it, Woodruff suggests harvesting it now. There is also stalk rot in many of the cornfields still standing.
2. Dry corn to a high temperature. Set the dryer plenum temperature to 180 degrees F or higher to extend storage life of disease-damaged corn. However, Woodruff says even then, corn will not likely store for as long as it would without damage.
3. Look for key indicators of short storage life. Corn that is discolored or that has a low test weight will likely have a shorter expected storage life, he says.
4. Dry affected corn 1 point lower than normal. The goal is to reduce the moisture content to 14% or below to reduce water content that promotes mold growth.
5. Maintain the temperature inside the bin at 30 degrees F or below. Temperatures below 50 degrees F reduce mold and insect activity, Woodruff says. Colder temperatures further reduce chances of corn going out of condition.
6. Monitor stored corn carefully each week. Be aware of off odors, crusting or anything that looks out of the ordinary, Woodruff says. Also notice if the moisture on the surface of the stored grain increases. If any of these things occur, take action immediately.
7. Leave the grain cold until sold. Aeration is only for changing the temperature of the grain, Woodruff advises. High aeration airflow will not extend storage life, he says.
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8. Market corn affected by mold early. Plan to market bins of corn where you know the grain contains damaged kernels before the weather begins to warm up next spring, he advises. The storage life of this corn will be shorter, even if you take the steps prescribed here to extend its life, he says.
9. Consult your local Extension service for more information. Several universities are already putting out information in response to this situation. Seek advice from Extension personnel.