TWIN FALLS — A hot summer followed by a relatively early frost has pushed the 2017 corn crop into maturing earlier than growers are accustomed to.
By the calendar, harvesting 100-day silage corn on Sept. 11 should have been right on schedule. But when Steve Hines harvested his trials at the University of Idaho Kimberly Research and Extension Center, only one or two varieties were close to 68 percent moisture. The rest were much drier, lowering feed value.
“It seems like the corn matured early this year,” said the UI Extension educator from Jerome County.
He had about two-thirds of his trials out before he saw any other harvesters in fields. But based on his trials, he thinks any grower who planted an 82- to 90-day hybrid should have been cutting silage by the end of August.
Rick Rodgers was one grower who did plant an 82-day corn on his Roseworth farm in western Twin Falls County. He planted it intending to harvest it for grain corn but agrees with Hines that if it had been planted for silage, it needed to be harvested in mid-August.
In the past, grain corn had to be dried in fields which meant growers often left it standing until February or March when the moisture finally dropped to around 15 percent. More growers have put up grain dryers and bins to store grain corn so that harvest can begin earlier.
“This year has been a little different,” Rodgers said. “It’s been a good year to dry corn in the field.”
He expects his yields will be down a bit because of the earlier maturity but he will save drying costs because the crop tested at 14.7 percent in mid-October. He has planted 90-day corn in the past but was worried about an early frost this year.
“I didn’t want to have a wreck,” Rodgers said.
Dave Sommer, who farms south of Twin Falls, planted a 107-day corn this year. He’s been growing earlage for a nearby dairy for several years but found that shorter-day varieties were maturing too quickly. Dairies prefer to harvest earlage between 23 and 25 percent moisture, much drier than silage but not as dry as grain corn. The cobs are processed as they are harvested and then stored in bags to be fed later.
His corn was harvested this week but he hasn’t heard how it yielded or what the moisture was.
Farmers on the Salmon Tract, near Hollister, took advantage of a good water year to plant corn this spring. Most of those acres were planted for grain corn as dairies seemed to have sufficient silage supplies this year.
“There’s a lot more grain corn around this year,” said Lance Griff.
Griff expects to finish harvesting his grain corn by Halloween. It’s been running between 17 and 19 percent so he is hauling to an elevator where it can be dried. This is the first year the elevator is offering a drying program. Even though it will cost about 6 cents per point of moisture per bushel of corn to dry, he’d rather finish harvest now than risk losses due to wildlife or downed stalks.
Both Griff and Rodgers expect corn yields to be average this year. The September frost caught some longer-day corn before it had reached blackline (a measure of maturity) and that will reduce both yields and test weight. Even the 88- to 93-day hybrids that Griff planted have lighter test weights than usual.
Idaho growers planted a total of 340,000 acres of corn in the spring, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Last year, the state’s grain corn crop was worth $84 million.
“This year has been a little different. It’s been a good year to dry corn in the field.” Rick Rodgers, Roseworth grower