As the drought spreads across the Corn Belt and it becomes clearer that some states, like Illinois, have apparently been affected more than was originally thought, farmers begin to wonder what they're going to do with the very worst, most stressed corn once they get it out of the field.
Richard Stroshine, a grain quality specialist at Purdue University, has some suggestions. However, even Stroshine acknowledges he's not quite sure what to expect. For most of those still farming or working with farmers today, drought in the hardest –hit areas is now into uncharted territory, eclipsing the '88 and '83 droughts in severity and overall effect upon the crop.
The reason for the variation in kernel size is because some ears didn't pollinate properly. If an ear has lots of missing kernels, those kernels are likely larger than ears with kernels packed tightly. One unknown, however, is whether combine operators will be able to get the sparse kernels off those nubbin ears without getting too much cob and trash in the combine tank.
The trash will add to storage problems, Stroshine sees. He always recommends that corn be run through a grain cleaner before binning, and believes it is essential this year. Even so, some fines will wind up in the bin. Due to how the bin fills, they usually wind up in the center cone. He recommends pulling out as many loads as it takes after the bin is full. It will pull from the center core and the fines and trash accumulated there will come with it. Without doing so, it will be difficult to get adequate air flow through the bin, he says.
If aflatoxin becomes an issue, and odds favor it becoming one, then small kernels are likely to be most affected by the fungus that produces it, Stroshine says. He recommends considering procuring density separation equipment to keep as many small kernels our tof the bin as possible. If the moisture level is too high and it's warm, the fungus can continue to grow even though the corn is in the bin, and aflatoxin levels can increase dramatically.