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Which field should you harvest first?

How do you decide which cornfield to harvest first? The first part of the answer is easy — don’t leave it to chance.

Which field should you harvest first?

How do you decide which cornfield to harvest first? The first part of the answer is easy — don’t leave it to chance.

Instead, where you start may depend upon maturity ratings of hybrids planted, planting date and your weather conditions during the growing season, disease susceptibility of each hybrid, whether you used foliar fungicides, plus root and stalk lodging potential.

Key Points

• Take the time to check fields now to determine preliminary order of harvest.

• Give preference to fields that are already showing disease pressure.

• Slowing the combine driving speed will likely pull in more down corn.

Here are eight steps you can follow to plan your harvest order.

1. Examine each field. Do it based upon planting order and relative maturity of hybrids planted.

2. Black layer? Check for black layer development on kernels of each hybrid. If the black layer is there, the corn is physiologically mature.

3. Disease pressure. Check your fields for leaf or stalk-rot diseases. Leaf diseases usually predispose plants to stalk and ear rot.

4. Check lodging. Do either the pinch or push test on stalks. If stalks don’t snap back, stalk rot is likely already at work.

5. Dropped ears. Watch out for ear droppage, especially in conventional hybrids, because they don’t have built-in insect resistance.

6. Develop an order. Just like a baseball manager puts together his batting order, make a list of fields that should be harvested first.

7. Control combine speed. This won’t be a fall harvest where it pays to drive the combine fast. You don’t want to leave grain behind.

8. Safety first. From the first field to the last, be careful and have a great harvest.

Nanda writes from Indianapolis. He’s vice president for research and development with 1st Choice Seeds, Milton. Reach him at or call 317-501-9017.

Nanda shares his rogues gallery of rots and molds

Here are some real threats to yield if harvest is delayed this fall. Expect both stalk rots and ear rots to be prevalent


Two for one: Both anthracnose and gibberella stalk rots are at work here.


Loves humidity: You’ll likely see ears like this, affected by diplodia ear rot, on susceptible hybrids.

Photo courtesy Chuck Woloshuk, Purdue University


Early stage: Anthracnose ear rot, starting from the tip, is beginning here. Some kernels are also spouting, an indication that insects likely made entry points for fungi and water.


Yield robber: The net result of stalk rot is lodging and more potential for ears left in the field.

This article published in the September, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.

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