From Vermont to the Chesapeake Bay there are many areas that have experienced significant flood damage as a result of Tropical Storm Lee.
From major flooding along the Susquehanna River, to smaller watersheds with less significant flooding periods, many silage producers are faced with significant challenges in trying to maximize stored forages that resulted in significant yield reductions due to the drought earlier in 2011.
Many fields have significant losses due to the stand being knocked flat while others only experienced extremely high water levels but are still standing.
Both of these conditions can greatly affect silage harvest and the resulting forage quality at feedout.
Here are a few comments to consider prior to harvesting these fields for silage.
First, be sure to contact your crop insurance agent. These men and women are important in documenting potential and real crop losses.
Second, be patient. Monitor fields every few days. Watch for the potential for stalk breakage and development of molds in the ear and in the stalks. Your goals for silage harvest should be to harvest at the proper moisture levels and to incorporate all of the proper harvest and storage practices. This will be more important this year than ever.
Flood damaged silage crops should be segregated from non-damaged crops. It is preferable to have an ag bag of less than desirable feed and deal with it in the bag than to have the crop mixed in with other forages and deal with a larger problem.
Make plans now for the possibility of a short crop.
There is no scientific research that documents problems with ensiled forages, but comments from producers over many floods would indicate that flood damaged crops present significant challenges for proper fermentation.
Many suggest that this poor fermentation is caused by contamination on the crop surface from flood waters that may have sewage water, petroleum products or even silt on the surface.
It is thought this surface contamination contains “bad” bacteria populations that out compete the natural fermentation bacteria.
Others have commented that damaged corn crops have lower photosynthesis production that results in low levels of readily available plant sugars to drive fermentation.
Whatever the cause, the result is that flooded crops have a history of poor fermentation.
To attempt to compensate for this, it would be advantageous to evaluate your silage inoculation program on these crops. Perhaps increasing the rate, to 1.5 to 2X may be beneficial.
Using an inoculant with L. buchneri would be helpful due to the increase in acetic acid that these inoculants produce to inhibit the formation of molds.
A caution would be to not use these inoculants when whole plant corn moistures exceed 70 percent.
Another suggestion is to add 2-3 pounds per ton of buffered proprionic acid to the silage in addition to the inoculant. These two different products cannot be combined in one application. One should be applied at the chopper and the second applied at the ag bag.
Be sure to carefully feed this silage. Check with your nutritionist to get good forage analysis.
Also consider that due to poor fermentation these crops will not store as well and should be fed out prior to next summers’ warm temperatures.
Material for this article was based in part on a discussion with Limin Kung at the University of Delaware and material from Daniel Hudson and Dennis Kauppila at University of Vermont Extension: http://agronomator.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/206/.