Corn Quality Concerns: The two main questions I’ve received: “Are you hearing others mentioning low/variable test weights on corn?” and “Are you hearing of loads being rejected (to ethanol plants) due to mycotoxins?” While I’m unsure how widespread this is, I have been receiving these questions. A reminder to check your grain quality if you haven’t already been hauling or checking it.
Test Weight is a volumetric measurement (weight of corn grain per unit of volume), and as such, doesn’t directly correlate with yield. Standard corn test weight is 56 lbs/bu (1 bushel is 1.24 cubic feet). The size, shape, slipperiness of surface, and density of the kernel impacts test weight. Hybrids can show differences in test weight. Test weight is different than kernel weight, and thus not directly correlated with yield. Test weight gets at how tightly packed the starch is within the kernel. Reducing kernel moisture can allow for increased test weight if the starch loses water allowing for it to be packed more tightly within that kernel. Dry kernels that slide past each other may pack better allowing for increased test weight.
Lower test weights can result with disease, insect, and environmental stresses that impact photosynthesis and the movement of nutrients to the kernel during grain fill. These can include foliar and stalk diseases, drought stress, lack of nutrients, freeze prior to physiological maturity, late planting, and below normal temps during grain fill. Rewetting of kernels in the ear can impact test weight as kernels can swell and not shrink back to the same shape as previously. We know that moisture events happened after physiological maturity causing some sprouting of kernels in some ears prior to harvest. We did have high foliar disease pressure this year and reduced stalk quality. Compromised integrity of the kernel due to insect, disease, and mechanical damage can also impact test weight. I didn’t see the amount of kernel damage as I did in 2018. But there are certain hybrids that are high yielding and widely planted that I tend to see starburst patterns on kernels (due to Fusarium) and shortened husks exposing ear tips to more insect damage/ear molds. There are also hybrids that had a large amount of top dieback, husk tissue that turned brown early, or refuge in a bag plants that died early in fields. All of these may be factors potentially impacting test weight as well. Thinking about photosynthesis, we had reduced solar radiation during grain fill. I can’t help but think that could also impact it but didn’t easily find research that correlates solar radiation to test weight. There’s research correlating solar radiation to yield and kernel weight, though.
Regarding vomitoxin levels, the starburst patterns on kernels, insect damage leading to
ear molds, wet corn not properly dried or cooled in bins can all impact greater Fusarium growth and the potential for vomitoxin to be produced. If vomitoxin (also called DON) is an issue, concentrations can triple in the ethanol process of producing the distiller’s grains. Hogs and poultry are more sensitive than cattle, so the end user may be a factor in addition to the vomitoxin levels. I don’t know the levels being rejected so I can’t speak more to this.
York County Corn Grower Tour: Corn growers and spouses are welcome to join us February 3 for a tour of ag industries in the Lincoln area. We will meet at the York Co. Extension Office at 7 a.m. and will carpool leaving at 7:15. Our first stop will be RealmFive which focuses on wireless connectivity for ag operations. We will then tour Smart Chicken in Waverly which offers retail- and foodservice-packaged organic chickens and antibiotic-free chickens from Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Lunch at Lazlos is next followed by learning about the UNL hops program and research using corn gluten meal and soybean meal. Possibly another stop on way home. Please RSVP to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in attending by Feb. 2nd. Hope to have a good group who can join us! Flyer at jenreesources.com.
Grateful for the crops that have been harvested thus far! Also grateful for so many paying attention to grain quality coming out of the fields! That’s been a large part of the past 10 days for me…obtaining grain samples and pictures to answer grain quality questions from quite an area. So I did a quick literature review to better understand the conditions when various ear rot fungi grow and also put together a blog post to hopefully help all of us better diagnose what we’re seeing in grain samples-whether corn or soybean. You can find it at: https://jenreesources.com/2018/10/08/grain-observations/.
Fungal growth in storage is based on moisture, humidity, and temperature. I’ve heard various numbers being used for grain storage and I’m not a grain storage expert. I can also appreciate it costs you more and takes time with the current weather conditions to dry corn. In general, most Extension publications throughout the U.S. recommend getting grain dried to 15% as quickly as possible and maintaining grain in long-term storage at 13%. Briefly, in looking through the literature, the reason for this advice is because various ear rot fungi can continue to grow on and inside those kernels. There’s over 25 species of ear rot fungi with most of them ceasing growth at 15%. The main exception is Aspergillus which has species that can continue from just below 13 to above 14%. Thankfully we don’t have a problem with Aspergillus this year. We are seeing a lot of Fusarium and some Gibberella (which may increase with this rain). But we’re also seeing some Diplodia and other lesser ear rot fungi such as Penicillium, Cladosporium, and Nigrospora. The thing is that each fungal species has a temperature and moisture range in which they continue to grow. So if one is growing in a kernel, it gives off heat and moisture allowing for changes in temperature, humidity, and moisture within that area which can allow for other fungal species to grow. Fungi grow from one infected kernel to adjacent kernels. Having more ‘fines’, cob pieces, etc. can increase potential for fungal growth in the bin. Insects also give off heat which changes localized dynamics. Because of these reasons, our recommendation is to get grain dried to 15% as quickly as possible to help stop fungal growth we’re experiencing this year, particularly from Fusarium species. We’re not saying you need to get the grain dried to 13% immediately. It’s only a consideration down the road if you’re storing the grain till next summer. The following NebGuide is a great resource: Management of In-Bin Natural Air Grain Drying Systems to Minimize Energy Costs: http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/ec710.pdf. Our grain storage resource page can be found at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/grain-storage-management.
Also, there’s a new app called “Mycotoxins” and it’s another resource with ear rot pictures and mycotoxin information put out by several Universities produced for both Apple and Android devices.
Farm/Ranch Transition When You Aren’t in Control Nov. 14 York: Passing the farm/ranch on to the next generation is a tough job, especially if the next generation is unsure of what will happen when their parents pass. It is especially for those people, who are wondering what is going on, that a series of farm and ranch transition workshops are planned at Valentine, Ainsworth, O’Neill, Norfolk and York from Oct. 23 to Nov. 14.
The workshops will focus on the needs of the “sandwich generation” between parents who still own land and children who might want to join the operation, on whom farm/ranch transition and transfer often falls. Lack of communication often hinders transitions. The Gen2, or Sandwich Generation, will learn how to communicate with family to understand the transition and practice asking difficult questions.
Legal topics presented at the workshops will center around Gen2 needs, including elements of a good business entity, levels of layers for on-farm heirs control and access, and turning agreements into effective written leases. Joe Hawbaker, estate planning attorney, and Allan Vyhnalek, Nebraska Extension transition specialist, will share stories and experiences to successfully plan on the legal side. Dave Goeller, financial and transition specialist, will cover financial considerations, retirement, and compensation versus contribution.
Many families struggle to split assets fairly between on-ranch and off-ranch heirs, while continuing the ranch as a business. Goeller will discuss the family side and what to consider when dividing assets. Vyhnalek will also cover less-than-ideal situations, negotiating, and looking for other business options. The times are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at each location. The closest location to this area is November 14 in York at the 4-H Building. Cost is $20 per person. If more than two people are attending per operation, the cost is $15/person. Pre-register at (402) 362-5508 or email@example.com for meal count.
Funding for this project was provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Award Number 2015-49200-24226.