I’m counting my blessings, as we got a shot of rain last week. Even though it was hardly enough to get the ground wet, I will take any moisture we can get in this epic drought that is impacting 56% of the nation.
Travel down most gravel roads around here and many parts of the nation, and you’ll notice corn that’s scorched from the sun, with hardly an ear in sight. Much of it is turning golden brown already, and I’ve heard reports that some farmers are already combining, baling or cutting the corn for silage.
Bob Fanning, South Dakota State University plant pathology field specialist, offers some advice for how to get the most out of a drought-stricken corn crop.
“Corn has been a main issue that’s been affected in this drought, although soybeans and sunflowers are not too far behind. I think one of the key things that any farmer needs to consider before making a decision on his crop -- whether to save it for harvest or to use it for livestock feed -- is to evaluate the yield potential. With exceptional corn prices, even a marginal crop could earn a profit. Because of these high prices, using corn for livestock feed could be a mistake. Assess the crop for yield potential to make a more informed decision, and if you do sell the silage, make sure you are being appropriately compensated for your corn,” suggests Fanning.
Fannning advises producers to check the nitrate levels and herbicide restrictions on the corn crop before cutting it for silage. Additionally, when removing the crop, the fertilizer value, dry matter and crop residue are also reduced. This could lead to the potential for greater erosion and reduced microbial activity on the soil.
Additionally, he recommends producers consider no-till in the future.
“I have noticed a huge difference between no-till and conventional. On a normal year, it might be kind of a wash as to which method is better, but this year in this drought, it’s very evident. If you don’t manage with no-till, you may want to consider it in the future,” he says.
Finally, Fanning says that with the high cost of corn and hay, producers should be wary of using marginal feed resources.
“In these kind of conditions, producers may be tempted to harvest plants or weeds for forage that they normally wouldn’t. Some of these can be toxic and accumulate nitrates. Stockpile available forages, but be cautious of those that could be harmful to the livestock,” he warns.