2016 saw record high yields and production of corn in the USA. A whopping 86.7 million acres of corn were harvested in total. These figures just back up the fact that corn is an essential crop in the US agriculture system… so why are the estimated figures for 2017 so low?
The source of these interesting statistics, the NASS (National Agriculture Statistics Service), estimates that planted area for corn harvest in 2017 is down 10% to 32.4 million acres.
With growing populations, demand certainly isn’t what is driving down these numbers. Farmers are simply becoming much more efficient at growing crops, harvesting more corn per acre than they were last year. We take a look at how corn harvesting efficiency could be helping US farmers and what you can take away and practice on your own farm no matter where you are in the world.
The basics in corn harvesting
Once you’re certain that now is the right time to get started on harvesting your crop… think again, because you may already be too late. Harvesting as early as possible means you avoid worsening stalk rot on lodged corn and allows you more time – which you’re going to need for our next suggestion.
Slow down the harvesting, take time to really ensure that you’re prepared and harvest at a slow pace. Reducing speed of harvest means you’re less likely to miss ears and you can spend more time examining the fields as you harvest, just in case you need to adjust your harvester for maximum efficiency.
Staying as low to the ground as possible will again help to reduce the number of ears lost. Adjust machinery height between your fields if necessary.
To put simply in a way you will remember: start soon, stay low and stay slow.
A few extra tips for yield improvement
Removing the ear savers on your harvester could actually save more corn than keeping them on! If you’ve got the time and produce to spare, you can test this out for yourself. Finding out what works best for you is going to boost yield improvement more than rushing out with no idea what tech is best for you.
Getting the best tools for the job can be expensive. Getting the right tools for the job, however, means you could actually save money. Technology is advancing all the time, especially in the agriculture industry – remember that the newest tech with the most settings and features may be worthless and actually damage your harvest if you’re not willing to properly research and test what works and what hinders you. Sometimes it’s about good old-fashioned trial and error.
The facts about corn harvesting
The NASS goes on to show that only 8% of corn grown in the US is ‘non-biotech’, meaning its organic, natural, unmodified corn. That means a huge number are growing GM corn, whether it’s herbicide tolerant, insect resistant or a mix of more traits. This is sure to be improving the corn yield year on year… but let’s take a moment to look at the big picture.
Sure, herbicide tolerant crops mean that you can eradicate weeds that are either taking up much needed moisture and nutrients or posing a toxic threat to your crops, however it can be all too tempting to just go and spray a tonne without wasting time calculating how much is needed, seeing as your crops will be just fine regardless.
This kind of attitude is actually leading to huge problems – herbicide tolerant weeds and toxic contaminated run-off that’s changing the soil nutrition, affecting neighbouring crops and even polluting residential areas.
The key to long term improvements in corn harvesting efficiency is to slow down, research thoroughly and only use what is necessary, or we could be facing much bigger problems than reduced yield a little way down the line.