Corn School: Harvest timing critical for seed corn quality

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Seed corn harvest in southern Ontario typically gets underway in early September. Why so early? It’s all about protecting seed quality, says PRIDE Seeds field production manager Mike Bechard.

On this episode of the RealAgriculture Corn School, host Bernard Tobin returns to Chatham, Ont. for part three of our series on the critical points of seed production — from planting, to pollination, and harvest. He’s joined again by Bechard who explains that an early start to harvest is critical to protect the crop from potential frosts that could impact seed germ.

Bechard adds that the early start means higher kernel moisture — cobs harvested in the video are at about 33 per cent — which ensures the seed stays on the cob; it also provides more time for gentle handing to protect seed quality.

See Related: Part One — Seed corn success is all in the details

Seed corn is harvested using an ear picker — technology very similar to that employed by sweet corn growers. Bechard and his team grow and harvest seed for about 50 different hybrids and he stresses the need to pay close attention to quality assurance. “We have to clean out our pickers, the heads, the carts, the trucks, they all have to be cleaned down so that there’s no ears from other varieties to contaminate the next variety.” (Story continues after the video.)

After the the ears are picked and loaded onto trucks, it’s on to the processing plant where the crop is unloaded onto belts, which move it through a series of processing steps.

The ear is first dehusked before moving to the sorting tables. “Our corn sorters can then see the ears and make the determination if it’s true to type or if it’s an off type,” notes Bechard. “Any off types are going to be removed at that stage, as well as any diseased kernels and ears. They’re looking for white mould and fusarium and removing that kind of stuff.”

See Related: Part Two — Detasseling critical for seed production

Once sorting is completed, the corn is deposited onto another belt which takes it up to the dryer where natural gas is used to produce a constant temperature heat ranging between 96 and 98 degrees F for of 72 to 80 hours. Once the moisture reaches 12.5%, the seed can then be shelled and moved to storage before being packaged for farm delivery.

Tap here for more Corn School videos.

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