With spring planting now a distant memory, it’s time to start looking forward to harvest. Where corn silage is concerned, that means planning now if you hope to have the best possible crop in a couple of months. It also means paying attention to moisture levels. Like most grains, moisture content is critical to how well corn stores after harvest.
According to Drovers and PennState Extension, moisture content at the time of harvest is “one of the most important factors influencing corn silage quality.” The key is to match moisture content with the type of corn silage utilized. Growers should be using state-of-the-art moisture testers to determine moisture content before storing corn in their silos.
Moisture Content by the Numbers
Different silo configurations call for different moisture levels at silage time. Professors at Penn State say that corn destined for horizontal silos should have a moisture content of 65% to 70%. A tower silo calls for moisture content of between 63% and 68%, while limited-oxygen silos require 55% to 60%. Growers should target 65% moisture content for any corn destined for silo bags.
Why such variations? Because different silo configurations allow for different levels of air movement. Growers ideally want to find that sweet spot between moisture level at the time of harvest and the amount of air the crop will be exposed to during silage. Drier corn is more susceptible to mold and spoilage as a result of trapped air in silage. Excessively moist corn tends to lose some nutritional value thanks to poor fermentation and seeping.
The good news is that moisture testing is easy. It doesn’t take much to pull a handful of grain, put it in a tester, and read the result. Regular testing as harvest approaches keeps the grower fully informed of how his or her crop is doing. Having said that, the experts at Penn State say moisture levels should always be measured with an accurate tester. They recommend against estimating.
When to Silage Corn
PennState Extension recommends first measuring moisture content just as the milkline appears on the crop. The harvest date can then be estimated by applying a standard dry-down rate. A rate of between 0.50 and 0.75 is acceptable under most conditions. But also remember that the result is only an estimate; growers concerned about accuracy can always continue testing until harvest.
Use a Quality Tester
Knowing what we know about testing grain moisture levels, what Drovers and PennState Extension say about corn silage makes perfect sense. We are not experts in corn silage by any means. However, we are experts in moisture testing equipment. We have a full inventory of moisture testers for a variety of needs.
We recommend one of our top loading grain testers for your corn prior to silage. If you also grow hay, we have a number of portable rod testers for keeping track of moisture levels in baled hay. Each one of our testers is made to the highest possible standards for many years of reliable service.
We know how important accurate moisture level testing is for the American grower. Crop moisture levels can mean the difference between maximizing a crop and sustaining heavy losses. We obviously don’t want our customers losing significant portions of their crops due to not keeping track of moisture levels.
If you grow corn, now is the time to start thinking about harvest and silage. Remember, different silo configurations call for different moisture levels in harvested corn. If you’re not sure about your own crop, your local cooperative extension can probably help.