Scout to protect silage yield, quality


When scouting cornfields this summer, don’t forget your silage fields.

“It’s important to preserve the quality of the entire plant, including leaves, stalks and ears. That’s why scouting silage cornfields is just as important, if not more so, than scouting grain corn and soybean fields,” says Jon Erickson, customer agronomist at Mycogen Seeds.

Start by evaluating weed pressure. Weeds can rob yield and forage quality, especially in developing corn. Early weed control with a residual herbicide helps give silage corn a strong start and helps protect the yield potential.

Key Points

• Scout silage corn closely this season to maximize your yields.

• Weeds pressure can reduce silage quality and yield.

• Insects and diseases will also reduce silage quality.


In addition, look for signs of insect and disease problems, which also can impact yield potential. Corn leaves that are in good condition deliver greater tonnage at harvest and are more easily digested. Early scouting can help catch insect and disease damage before it is too severe to treat.

Erickson recommends scouting for diseases approximately 10 days before tasseling begins.

Diseases that cause the most economic damage to silage include gray leaf spot, northern and southern corn leaf blight, eye spot and corn leaf rust.

Erickson says if a problem is spotted, it is important to take immediate action. Two classes of fungicides used to treat the most common diseases in corn are triazoles and strobilurins. If a fungicide treatment becomes necessary, keep in mind that micronutrients and/or insect control products can be added to those applications for additional benefits if needed.

“Scouting fields planted for corn silage is time well spent and can have a significant impact on yield and quality,” says Erickson.

Look ahead to silage harvest

The type of structure the silage will be stored in determines the optimum moisture content at which to harvest the silage, says Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Extension beef cattle specialist.

The recommended moisture content for a horizontal bunker is 65% to 70%; a bag silo, 60% to 70%; an upright concrete stave silo, 60% to 65%; and an upright oxygen-limiting silos, 50% to 60%.

Harvesting silage too wet increases seepage losses and reduces dry matter yields. It also can lower feed intake in livestock. Harvesting silage too dry results in mold development, lowers digestibility and can result in lower-protein silage.

Other planning tips from Lardy:

• Be sure packing equipment can keep up with chopping equipment. Producers may need more than one packing tractor or larger bunkers because of the capacity of today’s self-propelled harvesters.

• Cover bunker silos with plastic or over coverings to limit spoilage in the outer areas of the pile. This limits the amount of oxygen that can penetrate the pile and helps keep rain and snow from seeping into the pile.

• Pile silage as deep as practical for bunker silos to reduce the amount of surface area exposed to oxygen. Fill the silo as quickly as possible to limit plant respiration losses.

• Additives, conditioners, preservatives and bacterial inoculants can improve fermentation and produce a better-quality silage, but don’t let the use of these products be an excuse for ignoring the basic principles of good silage.

• Develop a daily maintenance and inspection program for chopping equipment. Keep chopper knives sharp. This will improve machinery efficiency.

Source: NDSU Ag Communications


This article published in the July, 2010 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.