The Push Test May Sway You to Harvest Earlier

Stalks are already weak in some fields.

Published on: Sep 26, 2013

It sounds like a simple concept. Bob Nielsen has recommended it for years. He is the Purdue University Extension corn specialist. Simply walk out into your field at this time of year in various places and do either the push test or pinch test.

Go down the row and push over each plant. If you want to get the best indication, do it on 100 plants. Then count the number that didn't respond and straighten back up when you pushed on them. Those are the ones that are weakened for one reason or another, and which are more prone to lodging. If they are prone to lodging now, especially after heavy rain in some areas last week, that means they will be vulnerable to falling over and lodging if a strong windstorm hits.

Tell-tale sign: This stalk didnt grow crooked! We pushed it over and it didnt snap back, indicating that it is already a prime candidate for lodging.
Tell-tale sign: This stalk didn't grow crooked! We pushed it over and it didn't snap back, indicating that it is already a prime candidate for lodging.

Harvest losses begin to mount up if corn doesn't react to the push test. They may even offset any benefit you might get from allowing the corn to dry in the field vs. in the bin.

You can also do the pinch test. Go down the line just as before, only don't push on the stalk. Instead pinch the stalk together. If you can crush the stalk tissue it is likely disintegrating and won't stand up to tough conditions if it's left in the field much longer.

Reports from the field say some fields have been stressed enough by one factor or another that it's pretty easy to push a lot of stalks over that won't come back. These fields may be the ones you want to check for early harvest. If there's black layer formed on most kernels, then you may want to take a moisture sample. Even if the corn is 28 to 30% moisture, leaving this type of corn out in the field much longer than necessary could be risky.