There are so many factors in executing an efficient and profitable corn silage harvest that it pays to get an early start on preparation. From field monitoring to equipment management and inoculant selection, farmers need to manage all aspects for success. Dupont Pioneer agronomists offer the following tips.
Silking dates. You can estimate ahead of time when fields will be ready to harvest based on tassel or silk dates. Silk dates (R1) occur when corn plants are at maximum or near-maximum height and have maximum vegetative dry matter. Most hybrids require 55 to 60 days to reach physiological maturity after silking, so it can serve as a good planning benchmark.
Moisture levels. Achieving proper moisture, the most important factor in making high-quality corn silage, is dependent on the silo structure used and the processing of the crop. Three steps to determining proper harvest moisture are:
1) Tassel date: Research shows grain should be in half-milk line stage 40 to 45 days from tassel date; however, advancing maturity depends on the growing environment.
2) Milk line. At 30 to 40 days post-tassel, walk the field and select ears to determine the milk line. At that point, moisture should be around 72%.
3) Sample silage. Chop some forage and use a microwave or moisture tester to determine the actual dry matter and moisture content.
Equipment preparation. Properly prepared and adjusted harvest equipment can help prevent fermentation and nutritional issues. Get the shear bar set for the right length of cut, use a kernel processor or a shredlage processor with good roll clearance and plan to check the loads early and often. Make sure silos are in good repair to avoid leaks.
Inoculant selection. One of the most critical steps in preparing for a successful harvest is choosing a silage inoculant. Pioneer offers leading-edge inoculants to help prevent loss from shrink and help silage remain stable at feedout.
Safety. Sit down with employees and family members to talk about potential threats and revisit safety training. Equipment should also be given all safety checks, and fields and roads should be inspected to avoid hazards. Any needed personal safety equipment can be ordered so it's on hand for harvest on the day it begins.
Getting a head start on preparation can help producers get the highest volume of the best quality silage out of the field at the right time, and with fewer delays. For more information, visit The Silage Zone at www.pioneer.com or contact your local Pioneer sales professional.