Corn silage harvest time is just around the corner and California producers will want to make sure they are prepared to make important decisions about harvest timing. After approximately three months of growing the corn silage farmers look to maximize the value of their crop by harvesting at the most advantageous time. Technical agronomist for DEKALB in California and Arizona, Barbara Kutzner explained that the most important consideration for harvest is plant moisture.
“If a silage is harvested when it’s just too wet, then you have inferior fermentation and you have dry matter loss,” said Kutzner. “The other extreme is that you are harvesting silage that is too dry and in that case you will also have inferior oxygen exclusion because you cannot pack that pile densely enough and then you also have dry matter losses.”
Some harvesters on the market can actually measure crop moisture in real time as it makes its way through the fields. Ideal moisture content for corn silage harvest is between 65 percent and 70 percent. “If you have Ag Bags they have a different way of putting up your silage, then you can harvest a little bit drier. The optimal weight is between 60 and 70 percent moisture. That is important to reach that moisture range correctly,” Kutzner explained.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California farmers harvested over 10 million tons of corn for silage on nearly 400,000 acres last year. More than 80 percent of that acreage is located in the San Joaquin Valley. Once the corn silage harvest is completed the next step is the process of storing, which is critical to maximizing its value.
“It’s really important that it is packed correctly so all the oxygen is being excluded,” Kutzner noted. “It’s very important that you pack your pile appropriately and then as soon as the packing is done, it needs to be covered to minimize any dry matter losses that would occur if the pile was exposed to oxygen.”