Thursday, October 22, 2015

Temporary Corn Grain Storage Tips

Due to high yields in some areas of Wisconsin, farmers are searching for temporary grain storage options this year. Picking sites that are elevated and have good drainage is the key to storing grain on the ground. The risk of crop loss is higher when grain is stored on the ground than in bins, so ground piles should be considered short-term storage and monitored frequently.

The success of storing grain on the ground depends on a combination of variables that can be controlled, such as site preparation, storage design, use of aeration and storage management, and factors that can’t, such as the weather.

Advice for preventing crop loss:
  • Select a site that’s elevated, has good drainage and is large enough to accommodate the volume of crop being stored and has roughly 130 feet of turnaround space for trucks dropping off the grain.
  • Prepare a pad for the grain to rest on by mixing lime, fly ash or cement in the soil to prevent soil moisture from wetting the grain. Make a concrete or asphalt pad if the site will be used for several years.
  • Create a crown in the middle of the pad with a gradual slope away from the center for water drainage. Also make sure the area around the pad drains well.
  • Run piles north and south to allow the sun to dry the sloping sides.
  • Build a retaining wall to increase storage capacity.
  • Place only cool (less than 60 F), dry, clean grain on the ground. Maximize pile size to reduce the ratio of grain on the surface, which is exposed to potential weather damage, to the total grain volume.
  • Build the pile uniformly for maximum grain surface slope and avoid creating hills, valleys, folds and crevices that will collect water.
  • Form the pile quickly and cover it immediately to minimize its exposure to moisture, wind and birds.
  • Install an aeration system to cool the grain so its temperature is uniform and equal to the average outdoor temperature. Cool temperatures minimize mold growth, limit moisture movement and control insects.
  • Check grain temperatures and moisture content at several locations in the pile every two to three weeks.
  • Frequently check the pile’s cover for rodent-caused perforations, damage from wind or ice, worn spots and vandalism, and make repairs.
  • Inspect retaining walls for separation or movement at the connections and deterioration of the materials in the walls. Also make sure wall anchors still are holding.
  • When removing the grain, load it from the center of the pile to prevent uneven pressure on the retaining wall.
  • Try to separate spoiled grain from the pile to limit the amount of grain that needs cleaning, drying and blending with other grain stored in outdoor piles.

Producers also have alternatives to piling grain on the ground, such as storing grain in empty barns and pole buildings used for machinery storage. Here are some tips when using these buildings:
  •  Make sure the site is well-drained.
  • Strengthen buildings to support the pressure of the stored grain. Most buildings were not designed or built to withstand any pressure on the walls.
  • Check with the building’s manufacturer on how deep to fill the structure with grain.
Further Reading

Wisconsin Corn Agronomy - Storage

Dorn, Thomas.W. , Gerald R. Bodman, and David D. Jones. 1998. Temporary/ Emergency Grain Storage Options. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Herrman, Timothy J., Carl Reed, Joseph P. Harner III, and Adam Heishman.1998. Emergency Storage of Grain: Outdoor Piling. Kansas State University MF-2363 Grain Systems

Maier, Dirk E., and William F. Wilcke. Temporary Grain Storage Considerations. Purdue University

Monday, October 12, 2015

What Can We Learn From the 2015 Season?

The 2015 growing season is rapidly coming to a close. A killing frost has not occurred yet, but it is only a matter of time. Weather during 2015 has been similar to the 30-yr normal (click here and select year under "Weather Graphs" on left side). So 2015 will be characterized as an average year and will be useful to test recommendations based upon average seasons. The more interesting years are when weather is more extreme to see how well recommendations based upon averages hold up!

This year saw delayed planting in northeast Wisconsin. Also, an early season (early July) wind storm along the southern three tiers of counties lodged many fields. Corn that did not snake back up was poor yielding. Northern corn leaf blight was especially prevalent this year.

Use your time in combine seat to scout fields

Harvest provides an opportunity to scout your fields. As you travel through the field, you can observe various types of problems that may have occurred during the growing season. Weeds that were not controlled would be one of the most obvious problems that will show up. With the increase in weeds that are resistant to various herbicide classes, it is important to identify these problems as early as possible in order to control them as early as possible to control increases in populations and movement of the weed. This may also provide some opportunity to begin managing the problem this fall.

Insect and disease problems can also be detected in the fall. Note if particular varieties seem more susceptible to an insect or disease. If one variety or hybrid seems to be more susceptible to disease pressure or insect pressure, then this information could be used in variety or hybrid selection for next year. If all hybrids or varieties are affected similarly, then the cause of the problem needs to be identified to aid in selecting management options for next years crop.

Evaluating Test Plots

This is also the time of year when on-farm strip plots are evaluated. Field variability alone can easily account for differences of 10 to 50 bushels per acre. Be extremely wary of strip plots that are not replicated, or only have "check" or "tester" hybrids inserted between every 5 to 10 hybrids. The best test plots are replicated (with all hybrids replicated at least three times).

Don't put much stock in results from ONE LOCATION AND ONE YEAR, even if the trial is well run and reliable. This is especially important in years with tremendous variability in growing conditions. Years differ and the results from other locations may more closely match your conditions next year. Use data and observations from university trials, local demonstration plots, and then your own on-farm trials to look for consistent trends.
A few suggestions on how to evaluate research test plots:
  1. Walk into plots and check plant populations. Hybrids with large ears or two ears per plant may have thin stands.
  2. Scout for pest problems. Hybrid differences for pest resistance and tolerance should be monitored and noted all season, but will be most apparent in the fall. Counting dropped ears is a good way to measure hybrid ear retention and tolerance to European corn borers.
  3. Check for goose-necked stalks. This is often root pruning caused by corn rootworms. Hybrids differ in their ability to regrow pruned roots.
  4. Find out if the seed treatments (seed applied fungicides and insecticides) applied varied among hybrids planted, e.g. were the hybrids treated with the same seed applied insecticide at the same rate? Differences in treatments may affect final stand and injury caused by insects and diseases.
  5. Differences in standability will not show up until later in the season and/or until after a wind storm. Pinch or split the lower stalk to see whether the stalk pith is beginning to rot.
  6. Break ears in two to check relative kernel development of different hybrids. Hybrids that look most healthy and green may be more immature than others. Don't confuse good late season plant health ("stay green") with late maturity.
  7. Visual observation of ear-tip fill, ear length, number of kernel rows, and kernel depth, etc. don't tell you much about actual yield potential. Hybrid differences are common for tip kernel abortion ("tip dieback" or "tip-back") and "zipper ears" (missing kernel rows). Even if corn ear tips are not filled completely, due to poor pollination or kernel abortion, yield potential may not be affected significantly, if at all, because the numbers of kernels per row may still be above normal.
  8. Be careful with test plots consisting predominately of one company's hybrids. Odds are stacked in their favor!

Further Reading

Wisconsin Corn Agronomy - Data sheet

Wisconsin Corn Agronomy - On Farm Testing 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Corn Harvesting Losses

Grain has been drying exceptionally well during 2015, so many growers will be in the thick of grain harvest this week. All your hard work during the growing season can quickly be lost if your combine is not set correctly during harvest season. Taking some time to thoroughly read and review detailed settings on your specific combine model can help you fine tune changing field conditions and weather.

Sources of grain losses can be broadly divided into pre-harvest losses, gathering losses and machine losses. Remember that every two kernels per square foot equals one bushel of loss per acre.

Pre-harvest Losses

Some losses can occur before the combine even reaches the field. Hybrids differ in their ability to retain grain on the plant due to maturity and ear droppage. One ear (3/4 pound each) in each 1/100 of an acre is equivalent to one bushel per acre. To determine 1/100 of an acre, take the normal 1/1,000 acre distance times ten. For example, in 30-inch rows, 1/1000 of an acre is 17 feet 5 inches; 1/100 acre would be that distance across ten rows. For each ear in that area, there is one bushel per acre loss.

Weather events and the ability of the farmer to be timely can also increase grain loss before the combine even gets to the field.

Gathering Losses

Gathering loss is grain that does not get into combine. Shatter losses caused by the header and can be determined by counting the number of ears and kernels under the header.  More than a half bushel per acre (or one kernel per square foot average) indicates adjustments would be appropriate. Grain can also be lost from stubble losses, stalk losses, and lodged plants.

Machine Losses

Machine loss is due to improper adjustment of threshing, separating and cleaning sections. Threshing loss is indicated by kernels attached to pieces of cob behind the combine. These were not shelled by the rotor or cylinder. Separating losses are additional loose kernels on the ground behind the combine. These were not shaken out of the cobs and husks and were lost over the back of the separator.

How to Measure Losses

Determine average loose kernel loss and cylinder/rotor loss
  1. Every 2 kernels per square foot = 1 bushel per acre
  2. Kernel still attached to cob = cylinder/rotor loss
  3. Acceptable level = 1.2 to 3 kernels per square foot
Determine machine ear loss
  1. Behind combine, gather all ears on 1/100 acre
  2. In front of combine, determine pre-harvest ear loss in standing corn on 1/100 acre
  3. Subtract pre-harvest ear loss from ear loss at the rear of machine
  4. Each 3/4 pound ear = 1 bushel per acre
  5. Each 1/2 pound ear = 2/3 bushel per acre
  6. Acceptable level = 0 to 1.0 bushels per acre
Typical total field loss level = 0.6 to 2.5 bushels per acre. Goal is to limit total field loss to less than half a bushel per acre.

Further Reading

Wisconsin Corn Agronomy - Grain Harvesting