harvesting wet Southeast problem drying propane corn

CORN HARVEST in the Southeast is under way, but wet, non-uniform crops are creating challenges for growers.

Harvesting wet corn will be challenge in Southeast this year

• Spring rains pushed back corn planting across much of the Southeast. • Continued wet, cloudy weather has created sporadic quality problems in some areas. • Harvesting non-uniform, wet corn will be a challenge this year.

Across much of the Southeast, the year’s corn planting was pushed back from several days to several weeks and many fields were replanted.

Either way, the bottom line for many growers is that corn maturity has been delayed and growers are now coping with some of the problems created by a combination of late planting and lower than optimum daylight.

In many of the highest corn producing counties in North and South Carolina and into southeast Virginia, continued August rains have further delayed harvest, adding to quality problems associated with a lack of uniformity in maturity.


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Nationwide, the same story is playing out on a much larger scale. The USDA recently downgraded 2013 corn area by about a half million acres due to losses from weather.

Farmers are now expected to harvest about 13.95 billion bushels, 55 million fewer bushels than predicted in June. That still beats the 2009 record by about 858 million bushels. A bushel of corn, when on the ears, weighs about 70 pounds.

Iowa is one of the largest corn producing states in the country, and a good measuring stick for the U.S. crop.

Iowa State University Ag Economist Chad Hart recently summed up the current state of U.S. corn, "We're probably sitting on some of the worst crops in the country. We have drowned out spots and we have holes in our fields we don't like to see there. But when you look at the corn that did take off and start to grow, it's looking a lot better now than it did two or three weeks ago."

Across the Upper Southeast the corn crop looks good and some growers have already harvested their crop, with mixed reviews on quality and yield.

It uniformly looks good, but delayed harvest will tell the tale on how well the 2013 corn crop survived record breaking rainfall in some areas and cooler than normal and wetter than normal conditions across most of the Southeast.

Check current corn futures prices

Storage and drying are proving to be a problem early in the corn harvest season in the Southeast and that problem could get worse as propane gas costs and availability factor into the harvest equation.

Mark Leitman, who works with the Propane Education and Research Council, says the 2013 corn planting season nationwide was the latest since 1984, and it is one of the largest corn crops planted.

Heavy drying needs

"That's an early indication of the kind of drying potential that may be needed," he says,

"The key thing for a grower is to talk to the local propane provider — and many farmers have already done this — to be prepared," Leitman says.

He notes there's an abundant supply of propane out there, the challenge this fall — if harvested grain needs a lot of drying — will be having the propane in the right place at the right time.

Perhaps the most important factor in dealing with high moisture corn is getting the combine set up right. Some things to remember are:

• A properly adjusted combine can handle corn between 20 and 30 percent moisture, but exceeding 30 percent will be a trade-off between leaving grain in the field and damaging the grain you combine.

• Be sure to select a ground speed adequate to keep separator and cleaning shoe at full speed. Adjust your hydrostatic transmission to maintain the engine near rated speed under varying crop conditions.

• Operate the header as high as possible to reduce getting wet plant material in the combine, which can significantly reduce the machine’s ability to thresh and separate the grain.

• Before changing concave clearance, make sure it is level side-to-side in a conventional combine or front-to-back in a rotary combine so that the adjustment is uniform.

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