This Crop Alert was originally written for and distributed to farmers and other members of the agricultural industry in western New York.
Corn Silage Harvest
Corn silage harvest is underway across western New York and will be in full swing during the next couple of weeks. Check the moisture levels prior to harvest by working with your nutritionist, drying it yourself in microwave or Koster tester, or taking it to a local elevator/ag supplier. Corn silage should be harvested at about 68% moisture (32% DM) for bunker silos or bags and at 65% moisture (35% DM) for upright silos. Targeting corn silage harvest for the half milk line stage can have a wide range of moisture contents (58-65% moisture) and should not be used-measure the moisture instead. If possible, harvest before the corn silage dries down to 60% moisture (40% DM) as silage preservation is not optimal. Applying a Lactobacillus buchneri inoculant can help improve aerobic stability of the corn silage in situations where the DM is greater than 40%, bunk feed out is slow, and during warm weather feed out. Properly adjust your harvesting equipment before and during harvest so that all kernels are crushed and all stalks are short. In traditional kernel processors setting the theoretical length of cut (TLC or TLOC) to ¾ in (19mm) and setting the processing rolls between 0.04 and 0.12 inch (1 and 3mm) apart should break 90-100% of the kernels. About a dozen farms in western New York are chopping corn silage with Shredlage units with many others doing a demo for a bag or part of bunker. The TLC on these units will be slightly longer at 25-30 mm (see Figure 1), but the distance between the processing rolls will be similar (2.5-3.0mm). Additionally, changes will likely need to be made to the knife drum depending on the specific combine unit. Work closely with your local equipment representative or directly with the manufactures of the Shredlage units to optimize the settings of these units.
Cover Crops Following Corn Silage
What a difference a month can make when it comes to planting cover crops! We had lots of options when the winter wheat was harvested in the first half of August. Now that we are past Labor Day, many of those crops such as clovers, peas, radishes, and oats, will not gain the biomass needed to be an effective cover. What’s left? Planting cereal grains is our best option after corn silage in NWNY. We have some early fields that have been harvested, but many fields are at least 1 or 2 weeks away from harvest. That means cover crop opportunities might be a little later this fall. For those of you who planted small grains in August you will need to take a cutting or clip it to about 6-8 inches prior going into winter as snow mold can wipe out a small grain field planted too early with a lot of biomass. While it hasn’t been a concern in recent years, insect pressure (along with the viruses and diseases they spread) is greatly reduced when small grains are planted after the Hessian Fly Free date (Sept 15th in most of western NY).
Cereal rye is always the safest cover crop when it comes to establishment and biomass accumulation in the fall and spring. However, it can also be a nightmare in the spring if weather conditions do not allow for it to be sprayed or plowed under in a timely manner. Winter wheat also establishes well in the fall and makes good cover. It does not grow as fast in the spring and therefore provides a wider window for management. Winter triticale is a hybrid between rye and wheat. It is the best option if you plan on harvesting the cover for forage in the spring. This has become a very popular option in the last year (over 15,000 acres state-wide) due to lack of forage inventories and has been shown to be a high quality feed. Seeding rates for all these cereals should be about 120 lbs. per acre (2 bushels). Drilling small grains at 1-1.5 inches greatly reduces heaving and reduces weed growth the following spring. Applying up to 50 lb/A of nitrogen from manure or fertilizer at planting will likely increase spring small grain forage yields. Bin run small grain seed is a cheaper option-but the germination can be greatly reduced (below 10% in some cases) depending on post-harvest handling. Additionally there may be considerable fungal contamination depending on field management and/or post harvesting handling of bin-run seed. This year has been especially challenging for triticale seed production both in New York and in Canada. Harvest has been delayed (and in some cases is still occurring), and there is a 10-14 day turn-around for the processes involved in testing germination, cleaning, pre-chilling, and treating the seed with fungicides. Be patient with this process as it is necessary to ensure high quality seed is available for planting.