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Corn Storage Challenges Farmers This Year

Farmers might be storing this year’s bumper corn crop in unconventional ways while they wait for prices to rise. But this can reduce yield before and after harvest due to delayed maturity.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects record corn yields that will exceed available on-farm and commercial storage this year. Rail and truck transportation issues also are likely to delay moving grain from the farm to the end user.

Soybean will be favored for available on-farm and commercial storage because of higher market prices. More corn likely will be left to stand in the field for drying and temporary storage, says Bill Wiebold, University of Missouri Extension corn specialist.

Expect larger losses the longer your corn stands, Wiebold says.

Corn was planted later than normal this year because of early spring rains and low temperatures. Later planting means later maturity. As a result, air temperatures during in-field drying probably will be lower than normal, increasing the time it will take corn to dry, he says.

“Field drying time at 75 F air temperature is surely faster than when air temperature is 55 F,” Wiebold says. “No one can predict air temperatures very far in the future, but delayed maturity almost certainly means field drying will occur at cooler temperatures. This means a greater number of days to reach a particular grain moisture.”

Longer in-field drying also will increase the risk of wind and rain damage. Stalk rot fungi can weaken plants, causing stalks to fall over and ear shanks to break off.

The two biggest enemies of grain storage are moisture and temperature. Seeds live even after corn reaches physiological maturity and the plant dies. Respiration continues, with water and heat as byproducts. Stored corn increases in moisture percentage and temperature unless dried artificially or aerated (air movement without heat).

Storing grain outside presents several challenges, Wiebold said. The cost of drying grain to an acceptable 13 percent moisture is expensive. Some farmers will choose to store grain in storage bags, but these do not allow aeration.

Airtight bags can reduce heat and moisture. This reduces or eliminates a fungus that causes grain spoilage.

How much corn could be harvested this year? Wiebold said if the United States Department of Agriculture’s predictions are true, 822.7 million bushels of corn and soybean will be harvested. Wiebold says this amount piled on a football field would be 4 miles high, higher than some commercial airlines fly.

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