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Droughted silage corn demands patience


Simple fact: Many farmers pull the trigger too early on drought-challenged corn for silage and either chop the immature plants or disk them under. On a similar note, drought-stressed corn intended for grain is often let to mature when it should have been chopped or sold for silage.


I saw both of these scenarios play out many times during my extension agent days. To be sure, these are not easy decisions.


Fortunately, the University of Wisconsin’s Joe Lauer has evaluated drought-stressed corn silage for many years. The corn specialist notes that if drought occurs prior to pollination and is followed by rain during pollination and grain filling, the resulting silage will have higher neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and starch content; however, there is little change in forage yield, milk per ton, or milk per acre.


If dry conditions persist through pollination and grain fill, the corn silage will be lower in starch content with about 20% to 50% less yield and milk per acre, but milk per ton will drop by less than 10%.


In both scenarios, plant height is reduced. Lauer summarizes by saying, “The success of pollination influences grain and silage yield and the proportion of grain in silage, but it has little impact on silage quality.”



August 1, 2023







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