Consistent Harvest Moisture Begins at the Corn Planter

Harvest moisture is critical to achieving the most consistent fermentation and forage quality. The most desirable range is 65-70% whole-plant moisture, and for best forage, whole-field consistency is important.

Consistent harvest moistures in corn silage begins at the corn planter. When I harvest corn silage plots, it becomes apparent how much variance there is in plant spacing. Plant spacing affects the plant’s lignin levels and fiber digestibility. We also will see variability in ear development, which affects starch levels and whole-plant moisture.

The following three “checks” will help ensure you raise higher quality forage this season.

  1. CALIBRATION: Modern planters are pretty impressive. Even the best planters, however, must be calibrated and we must verify seed placement is consistent. Even with brand-new equipment and the fidelity monitoring systems, it’s a good idea to physically verify seed spacing. The computer will indicate a seed drop, but this does not verify that the physical placement is accurate as there could be a mechanical drag from the firmer. Because seed bed conditions change, it’s a good idea to verify placement often.
  2. PLANTING DEPTH: Inconsistent planting depth may result in uneven emergence, and ultimately a variation of plant development stages within the same field.
  3. PLANT SPACING: Seed firmers help create a consistent seed depth in the V trench, although sometimes there can be a slight amount of seed drag. I was in a plot last year where the population was perfect at 34,000 plants per acre. Spacing between plants, however, varied from 5.5 to 6.5 inches and equated to a population variation of 38,000 to 34,500. This is important because the fiber becomes less digestible at 38,000 plants vs. 34,000 per acre. In just this small area, the population variance can change the personality of the plant.
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