Reality of Small Corn Sets In

Too early to worry about Jack Frost, not too early to wonder about moisture contents.

Published on: Jul 11, 2011

Depending upon where you live, you may be more concerned about getting your dryer and grain handling setup into tip-top shape than in other areas. In some places, corn literally was only knee-high by the Fourth of July. In many other areas it was only waist high. The other factor beginning to show up as a mark of this season, compared to 2010, is that temperatures aren't nearly as hot. Last season's hot temperatures aided crops in maturing and drying up. Many who bought grain dryers after a tough 2009 season didn't even fire them up. They may get that chance this season.

Look at your corn. Look at data about the size of corn in other areas of the Corn Belt. What counts is the big picture. Look at the calendar. If you can normally expect 3,000 Growing Degree Units before a killing frost, your hybrid needed 2700 units and you didn't plant until 1,000 units had already accumulated, you could have a problem. The only saving grace is that late-planed corn typically kicks it up a notch on maturing, and generally requires about 200 growing degree days less to reach maturity than if it was planted early or on time. However, doing that math, you could still run out of time.

What it means is that if the season is normal from here on out and an early frost is not a factor, you could be looking at wet corn if you want to harvest it in a timely manner. Moisture content at black layer or physiological maturity is about 35%. If you want 25% or lower, it's going to have to get a longer period before frost this year.

Part of the problem with USDA estimates, which will begin with the August crop report, is that USDA formulas assume conditions in terms of temperature and rainfall will be normal for the remaining part of the season. Obviously, that backfired last year. It was very hot in July and stayed very hot. Nighttime temperatures were extremely high in much of the Midwest. As a result, the USDA wound up dropping the estimate form August until final report by a near record amount.

So far this year, we aren't seeing the high nighttime temperatures. But if USDA assumes normal growing conditions, and some heat doesn't develop to shove the crop along, it could be a long fall for the person who babysits the dryer.