Harvesting Wet Corn to Provide Challenges

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, sdjohns@iastate.edu.

Johnson_Steve_smWhile half of Iowa’s corn crop was planted by mid-May, much was pushed back several weeks. Some fields were replanted more than once and as a result pollinated into August.

The bottom line for many growers is that corn maturity has been delayed. The problem with harvest may be a wetter than normal crop created by a combination of late planting and then impacted by hot, dry conditions during grain fill.

Iowa farmers are now expected to harvest about 13.5 million acres of corn, that’s 200,000 acres less than last year’s drought ravaged crop. The latest USDA estimate is that Iowa would average 162 bushel per acre, below the 30-year state trend yield by 17 bushels. The variability of corn yields and moisture levels is going to be large across the state. Much depends on the corn planting date and the water holding capacity of the soils.

Some corn plants that died prematurely may already be harvested, but much of Iowa’s crop will be slow to dry down in the field. It will need to be harvested and dried down to near 14 or 15 percent moisture to avoid a discount or extend storage time for bushels to be marketed later. Delivery of wet corn sold will carry moisture discount at roughly 2 percent times the points of moisture above 15 percent times the cash contract price.

For corn harvested at 25 percent moisture and averaging 170 bushels per acre dry, that’s about $90 per acre with corn valued at $4.50 per bushel. This amount roughly equals the cost of commercial drying charges using a 1.4 percent shrink factor and 4.75 cents per point of moisture. Drying and storage of corn may be a problem as harvest gets underway.

Heavy drying needs
The key thing for a grower is to think ahead about corn moisture levels, drying and storage costs — be prepared. There’s an abundant supply of propane out there. The challenge this fall — if harvested grain needs a lot of drying — will be having the propane in the right place at the right time.

Perhaps the most important factor in dealing with corn at higher moisture levels at harvest is getting the combine set up right. Some things to remember are:

  • A properly adjusted combine can handle corn between 20 and 30 percent moisture, but expect grain damage to increase unless careful attention is paid to combine settings.
  • Be sure to select a ground speed adequate to keep separator and cleaning shoe at full speed. Adjust your hydrostatic transmission to maintain the engine near rated speed under varying crop conditions.
  • Operate the corn head as high as possible to reduce getting wet plant material in the combine, which can significantly reduce the machine’s ability to thresh and separate the grain.
  • Before changing concave clearance, make sure it is level side-to-side in a conventional combine or front-to-back in a rotary combine so that the adjustment is uniform.

While corn harvest may begin later than normal this fall, farmers will want to be prepared early.

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM) 

An agricultural economics and business website.

Early Harvest Basis Opportunities

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist,sdjohns@iastate.edu.

Johnson_Steve_smWith the heat and dry conditions from late August, Iowa corn fields are maturing quickly. Farmers might want to take advantage of an unusual marketing opportunity this in September.

By harvesting some of their corn early and delivering directly in to local corn users, such as processors, livestock feeders and ethanol plants; farmers could potentially earn a premium of 50 cents per bushel of more over cash prices offered in October. That premium price is likely to disappear quickly in early October, when the 2013 fall harvest begins to pick up more momentum.

It’s really going to be a win-win situation for grain users and farmers. Corn users are looking for corn now after last year’s short crop and farmers could use this to earn premium prices and help their fall cash flow situation.

There could also be a few marketing opportunities on early-harvested soybeans. Like corn, processors and river terminals are looking to secure a local supply of soybeans after last year’s drought-reduced harvest.

Iowa farmers are fortunate because there is a strong demand for corn and soybeans in the state. That can create marketing opportunities that are not  available in all states.

A good strategy for Iowa farmers this month is to keep a very close eye on the moisture content and quality of corn in their fields during September as well as bids from local buyers. If the moisture content of the corn drops down toward 15 percent, or if there are signs of stalk rot or other problems that could trim yields, it may make sense to harvest some of the driest fields early and try to take advantage of a cash bid premium, he said. Even if the grain is still above the target moisture level of 15 percent, the premium for early delivery may more than make up for the dockage.

In years when the crop is less than ideal, there is a tendency for Iowa farmers to store corn and wait for higher bids later in the marketing year. However, those higher bids may not materialize in the upcoming marketing year because other parts of the Corn Belt have experienced better growing weather and may have more corn to market. I think it will be good to take an aggressive marketing approach this year and to look for early opportunities.

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM) 

An agricultural economics and business website.

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