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Agronomist offers tips for successful harvest

Photo by Ben Nuelle

Midwest farmers encountered a series of challenges throughout the growing season.

A southeast Iowa agronomist offers tips to help growers overcome the next set of challenges.

Sections of southeast Iowa have yet to see temperatures dip below 28 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC).

Karl Buttenhoff, technical agronomist for Channel Seed, says crops have progressed nicely. In the event of an early season frost, impact to yield should be minimal, according to Buttenhoff. However, farmers should keep an eye out for other repercussions. 

“Some important things to keep in mind with frosted fields, if they have not reached black layer or physiological maturity – From a corn standpoint, we’re going to see the inability for grain to dry down at a normal speed,” Buttenhoff said. “As we get into mid-October, we have a lot of highs of 50 to 55 degrees and lows in the mid- to upper 30s, which doesn’t bode well for dry down.”

Many will need to look into artificial dry down, with fewer heat units forecasted. Buttenhoff stresses the importance of dry down, especially if farmers are looking to store grain long-term.

“If we’re going to be putting early frosted fields into storage for more than a month, we’re going to want to dry grain down to, at minimum, 14-percent. Ideally, lower than that,” Buttenhoff said. “(The) biggest thing we’re going to want to do is run the fans and get grain cooled down as quickly as possible to help with storage life.”

Another item to watch is test weight. Buttenhoff reports seeing depressed test weights.

“On average, we run between 56 and 58 pounds per bushel of corn. From a lot of fields that have been picked, we’ve seen a lot of 52 to 54 pounds of test weight,” Buttenhoff said. “With these early frosted fields, it will not be surprising to see those test weights drop below 50 into the upper 40s.”

Buttenhoff reminds farmers, “Make sure we’re drying down grain in a timely fashion. Don’t let wet corn sit in grain carts for over a day because that will have a detrimental effect on its shelf-life.”