Corn drydown and stalk quality

September 16, 2021 12:21 PM
Blog Post

As corn has quickly reached maturity, the next hurdle of the 2021 growing season is harvest. Stalk quality will be a concern for fields across that state that experienced the stress of too much or not enough moisture. Alison Robertson recently wrote an article about stalk rots that is very good. I too suspect because of the stresses this year; stalk integrity will be compromised whether it be from stalk rots or simply because the plant cannibalized itself to fill out the ear as best it could.

Next steps are to get out into the field to conduct a pinch/push test. Observe how well the ears are hanging on the stalk. And get an idea for what the grain moisture and drydown potential are.

Corn grain drydown from physiological maturity to about 23% is nearly constant and is only minimally affected by air temperature and relative humidity. However, below 23% grain drydown can be influenced greatly by both air temperature and relative humidity. Sotirios Archontoulis and I developed a Corn Drydown Calculator that with minimal input of location and initial date and grain moisture can provide some estimation of how long it will take to reach your target harvest moisture.

This year may not be the year to wait until grain gets to 15% before harvesting. The longer corn stalks are left standing the greater the possibility for lodging and ear droppage to occur. Lodging, ear droppage, and header kernel loss are commonly greater the longer corn is left standing in the field and the drier corn is at harvest.

Use field scouting to assign a ‘harvest order’ to your corn fields to minimize the potential for mounting field losses.


Mark Licht Associate Professor

Dr. Mark Licht is an associate professor and extension cropping systems specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. His extension, research and teaching program is focused on how to holistically manage Iowa cropping systems to achieve productivity, profitability and en...