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Tips for Harvest Management and Preserving Grain Quality in Corn

September 19, 2018

With harvest upon us, it’s important to be thinking about best management practices that will allow you to get the most out of harvest while preserving grain quality throughout the harvest and storage process. Here are a few tips & things to think about:

  1. Make sure that your combine settings are appropriately adjusted to minimize grain damage and fines, as both fines and damaged kernels are a haven for mold growth and insects. Continue to check field losses throughout harvest in order to adjust your speed and equipment accordingly. You can do this by going back to an area that was just harvested, and throwing a 1 sq. ft. frame several times throughout the area. You can then count the number of kernels within the square, noting that for every two-kernels you find per sq. ft., you’re losing about 1 bu./acre.
  2. Before you harvest a particular field, document any problems you see. This includes the weeds that are present or any signs of insect and disease. Record when and where you made these observations so that you can appropriately adjust your management strategy in following years. It’s also important to pay attention to fields or areas in a field that appear to have mold issues, so as not to mix contaminated grain with clean grain during harvest.
  3. You will want to store clean grain separately from damaged or contaminated grain. Additionally, if you haven’t done so already, any grain that may be remaining from last year’s harvest should be consolidated into the same bin, and kept separate from this year’s grain.
  4. Make sure to store grain at the appropriate moisture content. The appropriate moisture content is dependent on the period of time you plan to store the grain, the storage temperature, and the initial quality of the grain itself. For instance, if you’re only planning on storing corn until early/mid-summer, 14-15% moisture is typically recommended. If you plan on storing corn for longer periods, the grain should be stored at a lower moisture level to keep it in better condition and to help prevent mold growth. In addition, if the grain is of lower quality, it should also be stored at a lower moisture content, typically 1% lower than recommended moisture contents.
  5. Continue checking grain temperatures and moisture content bi-weekly throughout the Fall, and once a month in the Winter, to take into account changing weather and potential moisture movement into the bin. At each inspection, remember to keep record of the grain temperature and moisture content, as well as any signs of potential issues. This includes any signs of crusting, condensation, mold, leaks, and any musty or unusual odors.

Source: University of Illinois