By Angela McClure, Extension Corn and Soybean Specialist

Corn harvest is underway. Dryland yields are ranging from close to 200 bushels to below 100 bushels per acre depending on location, and in specific situations, reduced ear quality may require a more timely harvest. 

Heat and dry weather in May and June impacted dryland ear size and pollination in some parts of west and middle Tennessee. Dry growing conditions during V8-V12 and drought and heat during pollination probably contributed to shallow kernels, lighter test weights, shorter and smaller girth ears, reduced husk length and ear molds. Wet weather in August, combined with shorter husks and lightweight ears that cannot turn down normally, makes the crop more vulnerable to moisture accumulation inside the husk and causing sprouting on ears. Non-Bt corn may have sustained insect damage, which can impact ear quality as well.

Check fields that were impacted by drought for sprouting on ears and seed molds and consider harvesting early to maximize seed quality. To reduce fungal growth and disease spread within an ear, one option is to harvest at 22-25% moisture and dry down to 15% moisture before storing. Sprouting on the ear will continue if ears are allowed to weather in the field. Consider harvesting at 18% moisture and taking some dock rather than letting corn dry down in the field, or harvest wet and dry down before storing on farm (13% for long-term storage). If corn is to be stored for feeding to livestock, test grain after drying if ear molds are a concern. Some molds such as Diplodia are harmless, while others such as Gibberella may produce mycotoxins under certain conditions.