One corn producer who raises livestock as well was around his grain bins when we stopped by late last week. The dryer was running. He was loading out a truckload of corn. He didn't seem to be in a hurry. Soon, I understood why. It's not a season where hurrying is likely to pay off. Instead it may get you in trouble, maybe in several ways.
The farmer with a small-sized operation noted that he could only dry about 2,000 bushels per day anyway. So job number one was keeping the dryer going, not hurrying to the field to run more corn. Like many others, he hasn't needed much drying capacity in the last several seasons, so he hasn't invested in upgrading his drying system.
What he realized was that it was more important to dry it correctly and get the moisture down where it belonged than to hustle through harvest. Ready to wrap up bean harvest, he noted that the bean moisture was finally down. Earlier, he binned 16% bins and dried them with air in bins with adequate aeration capacity. Now the issue was whether his wet-type soils could withstand combine traffic, without causing too much rutting. It was another reason not to rush into corn harvest too quickly.
From here on out, most experts note it's a balancing act between how wet the corn is, what the ground is like, and whether you should gamble on gaining more dry-down in the field vs. harvesting and cutting the potential for losses due to lodging and deterioration in the field. Although Indiana summer visited parts of the Midwest this past weekend, don't expect November as a whole to provide much drying potential for corn in the field. Once November arrives and temperatures fall, field drying tends to slow down, if not come to a complete halt at some point.
The farmer we visited wasn't finding molds in corn yet. But many are. If you're facing harvesting moldy corn, Richard Stroshine at Purdue University says that once you harvest it, get it down to 20% or less as quickly as possible. That will retard growth of the ear molds that traveled in tot eh bin site on corn kernels.
Then get it to 15% or less, with grain temperature of 50 degrees or less, as soon as possible. While drying to 14% costs more and results in giving up some weight, this is one year when Stroshine says it might pay, especially if you're dealing with corn that was moldy, or of poor quality. Drying to 14% vs. 15% provides extra insurance that molds that can take off in grain in the bin, different from ear rots in the field, won't have a chance to develop. Shelf life increases dramatically as moisture falls and grain temperature drops.
Even so, the farmer deciding to sell some corn as soon as it is dried is probably not a bad idea. Stroshine is recommending that farmers don't try to take poor quality grain, especially grain that was moldy in the field, any further into the year in storage than necessary. He definitely advises against trying to keep this grain into spring, and definitely not into summer.