Wind Damage Management in Corn

Posted: September 16, 2011

Significant wind damage to corn fields seen in central and southeastern Pennsylvania from recent hurricanes

Wind Damage Management in Corn

The remnants of the hurricane that passed through last weekend caused significant wind damage to corn fields throughout central and southeastern Pennsylvania. Corn ranges from leaning over to broken above the ear to broken below the ear and some is completely flat. Damage seems to be a function of the exposure, planting date, corn borer injury, stalk rot and genetics and often varies dramatically from one field to the next. Late planted fields seem especially hard hit in some areas. The poor root development, wet soils, tall corn and high ear placement all contributed to lodging problems.

At this point, producers should not panic and focus first on fields that have significant amounts of corn that is broken off. This would be at most risk for developing moldy ears and low test weight grain and has the least recovery potential. If the corn is immature, a silage harvest would be appropriate, with storage plans reflecting the moisture content of the crop. For very wet silages, consider horizontal storage structures to minimize seepage.

Corn that is not broken off and leaning or bent over should mature at a slower pace but eventually reach physiological maturity. There is some risk of increased ear molds on this corn, especially on really down fields, so a silage harvest would be the preferred method of handling this crop. I would monitor these fields as they mature and harvest rapidly if significant ear molds begin to develop. Otherwise I would try to let the crop mature until it reaches the desired moisture for ensiling or shelled corn harvest. The best of the lodged fields to consider for shelled corn harvest would be those that have already developed a milk line and started to mature and those that only have patches of down corn.

I am getting mixed reports on harvest success with various equipment configurations—it may be a good idea to check with your farm equipment dealer on whats working in your area. Specialized harvesting equipment is available for harvesting down corn for grain — I have compiled a list of manufacturers on my Web site at:

Producers who feel they may have a crop insurance claim with severely damaged crops should also review their situation and plans with their crop insurance agent and get a clear answer on how to proceed. It may be difficult to leave check strips for grain yield assessment as many producers did last year.

Greg Roth, Extension Grain Specialist, Penn State University