Hot and humid October offers visual clinic on combine settings

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Some of you may be hoping for a severe frost so that soybeans or corn no longer grow in harvested fields early between the wet periods this fall. While some combine loss is inevitable, no one likes to see proof that they have left dollars on the field, growing before their eyes.

In mid-October, it was the seventh wettest and warmest October on record since the 1880s in central Indiana, according to data from the National Weather Service of Indianapolis. Some areas were even wetter than Marion County.

Plentiful humidity and plenty of heat allowed the corn and soybeans left over during harvest to germinate quickly and grow quickly, turning fields that should have been brown to green instead.

So if you haven’t taken the time to get out of the booth and check for crop losses, Mother Nature has done it for you this year. Then she made a visual report for everyone to see.

Silver lining

There are two positives to this unusual condition created by Mother Nature. First, every soybean or corn kernel that germinated this fall that will be killed by a possible frost is one less soybean or corn kernel that can germinate next spring. This is especially a plus for the soybean fields in ’22. Corn regrowth in soybeans has become a more significant problem recently, as corn regrowths are tolerant to several broad spectrum herbicides.

Second, and most importantly, if you see more green plants growing than you want, it prompts you to check your combine settings or inspect for wear that can lead to excessive loss. It can also prompt you to check for losses before you finish harvesting if you still have more fields to go.

Also, on the plus side, the losses may not be as great as they seem. Four soybeans or two kernels of corn per square foot is 1 bushel per acre of loss. On 200 bushels of corn per acre, that’s only 0.5%, an ambitious target even today. If every kernel left to germinate, two kernels per square foot can look like a lot of corn.

Consider re-reading the October issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. Several articles, including the cover story, explained how to determine the losses and how to make corrections if they are higher than you want.

These stories are based on a repeated two-year trial by Indiana Prairie Farmer, Purdue University Agronomy, and the Throckmorton Purdue Ag Center. At five of the six two-year harvest dates, total cornfield losses averaging 220 bushels or more per acre were about 1 bushel per acre, or 0.5%. The sixth harvest date came after a windstorm at the end of November, and losses exceeded 3 bushels per acre, mainly from the cobs left behind.

This was accomplished with a 2010 Case IH combine harvester. The Throckmorton farm team pride themselves on checking and minimizing losses. Most of the losses that occurred were due to the drier corn cob shelling.

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