Severely lodged corn can put yield potential at risk. One way or another, however, it must be harvested safely and carefully. Andy Heggenstaller, head of agronomy for Syngenta Seeds, suggests keeping these four factors in mind when harvesting lodged corn.
- Go Slowly. If at all possible, avoid speeding through harvest. Rushing quickly through the fields is an inefficient way to harvest lodged corn. Slow your combine speed to reduce the risk of missed ears and be sure to go against the grain to diminish loss.
- Set Up for Success. When harvest conditions vary across fields and harvest dates, it’s important to reset the combine before going into a field. For example, you may need to reposition gathering chains on their sprockets so the lugs are directly across from each other to grip stalks more aggressively.
- Be Equipped. Make sure your combine is equipped with the proper reel to handle root or stalk lodging. The ideal attachment will lean out ahead of snouts to pick up the plants and effectively guide them into the combine. Many growers intend to rent such equipment when times get tough, but after events like the derecho in 2020, reels quickly become scarce in regions such as east Iowa. Invest in your own equipment now to avoid a headache later.
- Keep Quality in Mind. When harvesting corn that’s lying on the ground, quality issues are inevitable. Corn ears that have been in contact with the soil for too long fall victim to a range of toxins that farmers must address. Be on the lookout for additional mold and grain quality loss from ears being close to the ground. Harvesting early helps ensure the stalks are in the best condition possible to aid in getting crop into the head.
No matter what plan you develop for harvesting lodged corn, don’t let yourself get frustrated with the time and effort required. Proper safety practices should always be put in place, as rushing through harvest can be dangerous and counterproductive. With a little preparation and critical thinking, however, you can salvage much of your yield.