This is an argument for taking corn at a higher moisture and making peace with your drying costs.
As we finish up soybeans in a lot of cases, the focus will move to corn, and we will be faced with some tougher decisions. Some of this corn is hanging on to some moisture and at the same time the stalk quality is in a rapid decline. This is a crossroads that we need to consider as we go forward.
To maximize your yield, aim to average 20% moisture content as you harvest. This means that initially, you’ll be harvesting your corn at 24-25% moisture. That percentage will decrease as your harvest progresses, of course, and you should end up harvesting your final fields at about 18%. The work will be a little dirtier, especially at first, but you don’t mind that, right? Because it’s worth it.
18% moisture is a mark at which the cost of your yield loss exceeds the drying costs of harvesting at a higher percentage. Waiting for 18% moisture costs you 5-8 bushels, perhaps even as many as 10-12 in particularly challenging years. At $4.00 corn, that’s a $20 to $48 loss per acre.
The problems with waiting for 18% moisture are many: ear drop potential is higher, stalk quality declines, and head shelling becomes an issue. This “Phantom loss” also increases the longer that corn is left in the field. The moisture and heat of the field spur seeds actually to prepare to germinate, which leads them to respire and burn their sugars. Harvesting earlier will minimize the phantom loss caused by this respiration. Additionally, stalk quality will be higher, and you’ll leave less grain on the ground. Shrink is shrink at whatever moisture content, but you will more than make up for it with your higher yield.
The other additional benefit for you to go out and get that corn at the optimum moisture is reducing the amount of volunteer corn in the next cropping year. This will become increasingly important as the market today would favor more corn acres and the reduction of volunteer problems would be most helpful. If you want to know more about that ask me about my answer plot experience from this spring, I had the preverbal “Jimmy” moment when it came to that earlier.
Fear of having to pay drying costs has very likely cost you valuable yield in the past, enough yield to cover those very drying costs that you were aiming to avoid and then some. If you have the grain handling capacity for this little twist in your harvest operation, aiming for a 20% average moisture. Rather than 18% will put more corn in your hoppers and more profit in your pocket.