Corn School: Destroying mouldy corn and managing volunteers

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Thousands of acres of Ontario corn will have to be destroyed this fall due to high DON levels.

A big challenge growers face when destroying those acres now and into winter is ensuring volunteer corn doesn’t make a mess of next year’s soybean crop.

In this episode of RealAgriculture’s Corn School, our resident agronomist Peter Johnson looks at the best management options for growers, and offers tips on how avoid excessive volunteers.

Johnson says it’s critical to remember that as soon as a kernel is taken off the cob and exposed, it won’t likely produce a plant, but if the whole cob remains, with kernels intact, it will produce volunteers. If you’re planting soybeans, those cobs at the surface, or just below, could wreak havoc with planting and crop emergence.

Johnson admits research scientist and agronomists are in uncharted territory with this high degree of vomitoxin levels across so many acres, but there is some consensus on the best approach. (Story continues after video).

The gold standard for destroying the crop would be to use a forage harvester to smash the kernels to ensure they don’t germinate. Unfortunately, that can be a slow process with harvesters only able to roll through 12 to 14 acres per hour when focusing on doing a top job. For this option, Johnson notes it’s important the harvester has a diverter head to spread residue uniformly.

Combining would be considered the silver approach. Johnson says it’s important to remember that whole cobs will survive so it’s critical to close the sieves and put all the crop out the back of the combine. Weather should help kill kernels, but residue spread will be key.

Related: Reducing DON levels at the combine

Johnson also adds there is little risk that high DON levels in the crop will have a disease impact on next year’s soybean crop – a different pathogen, for example, is responsible for a disease such as Sudden Death Syndrome.

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