Fall harvest provides many valuable forage options for producers. For some growers, early high-moisture corn harvest is providing strong basis prices. Others may be harvesting whole plants as corn silage; while still others may be waiting for dry down to sell grain into the cash markets.
For those planning to harvest corn as grain, baled stalks offer another income source along with potential forage stalk grazing. Final corn harvest decisions will likely depend on your harvesting equipment available, cashflow needs, feed inventory and projected forage needs and supply.
The Nebraska Extension Forage Team encourages crop managers to consider the following in economic and forage harvest plans:
Since corn leaves detach from the stalks within one to two months after harvest and may blow out of fields, timely baling and/or grazing soon after harvest is highly recommended to save valuable corn leaf residue.
UNL research indicates that for every 40 bushels per acre of grain production, corn residue production will average about 1 ton per acre. Ideally, about 2 tons of residue should remain in the field after baling corn stalks to reduce erosion. Also, avoid taking residue cover from fields with slopes higher than 5% or leave at least half the residue cover to reduce soil erosion along with wind and water.
In corn-soybean rotations, corn stalk harvests are recommended every four years to maintain soil health while still providing additional forage income in a grain sales system.