Monday, August 1, 2011

Corn on the Cob

There may be corn on the cob at the farmers' market or the grocery store this summer. But there's not much corn on the cob in south central or southwest Kansas' dryland farm fields this year.

It was too hot and dry for corn plants to make ears of grain. With no rain and the temperature staying at the 100-degree-plus mark or more for the 35th day (as of last Thursday), hopes for a dryland corn crop are drying up. During the past week or so, farmers in our area have tried to salvage some value from the crop by swathing and baling it.

One of our neighbors put his crop into big round bales.

Another chopped the drought-stricken crop into silage.

A cutter chops the swathed corn and deposits it into a truck.

It's then hauled to a bunker silo, where it will ferment into silage.

Our neighbor thought he'd have enough to fill his silo and then have some to sell to us. However, he didn't get the tonnage he'd hoped, so our silo is still empty. The sorghum-sudan cross that Randy planted after harvest didn't have enough moisture to come up this year. So Randy will probably be looking to buy chopped corn silage from someone else.

With the dry conditions, there's an added risk that the silage or hay could be high in nitrates, which is detrimental to livestock. Putting the corn in a silo will lower the nitrate level over time. When it goes through the process of fermentation to make the silage, it lowers the nitrate level by half. If the nitrate level is too high, it can be mixed with other feed to bring the level down to a acceptable level for animal health.

Many farmers carry insurance on crop production, though it doesn't cover the entire cost of seed, planting, fertilizing, tillage, herbicide and other production expenses. Most insurance companies require that producers leave a strip of 12 rows the length of the field so a crop adjustor can evaluate yield potential later in the season.

With the drought also impacting the alfalfa crop and sudan grown for livestock feed, the corn silage and the round bales will give producers something to put in the feedbunks for cattle come wintertime.

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