The 2018 corn harvest season will certainly remain in our memory for a long time. Drought conditions during the summer in the southern corn belt, along with flooding in the north, had many forecasters wondering if we would have another record large corn crop in the U.S.A. This all changed in September when, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we experienced the third wettest September on record.
Because of all this rain, during the first week of October, corn harvest slowed significantly as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported only 8% of the corn crop was harvested. While still ahead of the pace in 2017, the bigger news in the report was the loss of corn quality. Corn quality slipped a point, with 68% now rated in good-to-excellent condition, versus 69% the week prior. Another 20% of the crop is rated fair (up from 19% a week ago), with the remaining 12% rated poor or very poor (unchanged from a week ago). Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr wrote, “A big drop in Iowa corn ratings translates to a 5.5 bushel per acre decrease in yields, which is large for this time of the growing season. Yield potential across the northern Midwest also faltered, hit by heavy rains. On average, yield potential dropped a bushel per acre nationwide.”
Not only does the rain impact yield, it has an impact on the level of mold and mycotoxins in the corn used for feed. Livestock and poultry producers need to prepare for corn with potentially higher levels of these performance-robbing contaminants. John Goeser, Research and Innovation Director at Rock River Labs wrote, “I'm expecting this year’s crop to be relatively “dirty.” So, what can producer do to manage the expected quality issues found in this crop?
It is well established that extended periods of wet weather, especially before corn harvest, accelerates the growth of mold in corn. Along with the growth of mold, producers need to address concerns about the presence of mycotoxins.
Mold, or fungi, are found everywhere. In the field, mold is found on soil partials, in the organic matter and on the plant material. Only a few of these mold species impact animal performance, but when mold growth occurs on corn grain, the mold deteriorates the feeding quality of the grain and can produce mycotoxins. Producers can do very little to prevent mold growth in the field – but there are strategies which help reduce mold growth in stored grain before feeding to livestock and poultry.
In 2010, Dr. John Patience, Professor at Iowa State University, published a fact sheet outlining many valuable mold management techniques.
2018 will present challenges for corn growers, grain merchandizers and livestock and poultry producers. However, because we know the quality of this year’s corn crop is likely marginal at best, we have notice of the need to manage this crop differently. Armed with this knowledge and advice from Kemin, university extension and nutritionists, we can still preserve the quality of this crop – until we have to do it all over again in 2019.
1https://www.noaa.gov/news/september-was-3rd-wettest-4th-warmest-on-record-for-us. Accessed October 25, 2018.
2https://www.farmfutures.com/crop-report/usda-crop-progress-corn-harvest-inches-forward. Accessed on October 25, 2018.
3https://www.rockriverlab.com/pages/2018-Corn-Harvest-Challenges.php. Accessed on October 25, 2018.
4Patience, John F.; Ensley, Steven M.; and Hoyer, Sherry, "Mycotoxin Contamination of Corn: What it is, what it does to pigs and what can be done about it" (2010). Iowa Pork Industry Center Fact Sheets. 18.
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