Factors affecting corn dry down in the field

Growers like to have hybrids with high yield potential, excellent disease tolerance, great standability, faster dry down and lower grain moisture at harvest. Well there seem to be a contradiction here. Hybrids that live longer are not going to die earlier and dry fast. Management decisions such as planting date, plant population, amount of nitrogen used, and use of foliar fungicides all affect the rate of dry down and grain moisture at harvest.

• Corn breeders have to constantly compromise to find hybrids with the right combinations that will produce the highest income for the growers. What are the agronomic and genetic characteristics of corn hybrids that affect rate of dry down?

• Hybrid relative maturity, thickness of pericarp or skin of the kernel, ear angle after maturity can all affect dry down rate. Hybrids with thinner cobs tend to lose moisture faster.

• As corn matures, moisture is lost through cob and ear shank, exposed ear tips and husks. Upright ears tend to capture moisture in the husks and slow down the drying process. Droopy ears lose moisture faster than upright ears. Grain with thicker skin and higher test weight dries slower; chaffy or light weight grain dries faster.

• Husk cover, number, thickness and tightness of husks can affect rate of dry down. Cob thickness and kernel depth also influence how fast the grain would dry. Since hybrids differ in the above characteristics, they do differ in the rates of dry down.

• We all know that weather has a major effect on grain moisture at harvest. Temperature, rain fall and amount of sunshine influence grain drying. Weather conditions after the grain-fill period is over have a major effect on how fast the grain will dry in the field. On an average, we need 20 -25 heat units to dry grain in the field by one point. So, there are lots of factors that influence moisture at harvest. I urge you to get the crop out before it starts to go down.

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