But we should be starting today!
Although it seems like literally everyone else has already started harvesting corn in our area, we’re still waiting. That’s because our corn is still too wet for us to pick it. The moisture content, or the amount of water in each kernel, needs to be at a dry enough level where we can either finish drying it ourselves, or we can take it to the granary and take a hit in price. See, in order to properly store corn, we have to make sure that the moisture or water content is low enough that it won’t spoil.
The granary thinks a 15% moisture content is just right. For any amount above that, they will dock our price per bushel, because they will have to expend energy to dry it so they can properly store it. For example, at the grain elevator we have currently contracted with, an 23% moisture content will result in 29 cents less per bushel! When corn is about $3.75 per bushel, that’s a significant price cut!
By the way, it doesn’t work the opposite way either – if the corn is under 15% moisture, we don’t get an increase in price. My brother explained this is basically like giving your crop away. Because we’re paid based on weight, the less moisture in the corn, the less the corn will weigh. So, if the corn only has 13% moisture and we take it in, the granary will pay for the weight of that corn as if it actually had 15% moisture. Even though they will actually be getting more corn that weighs less, we get paid the same amount.
Of course, we have to have some way to figure out the moisture content in the corn before we get to the granary. We do that by testing it. To test the corn, we first take a sample of ears from various parts of the field. Sometimes there are reasons to test moisture content in one area of the field, and our combines certainly have the technology to keep track of those numbers. In this case though, a sampling will work just fine.
Next, those kernels get mixed up and poured into our moisture tester.
The tester is able to figure out the average moisture of the corn kernels and give us a reading. As you can see, the average moisture content for the corn in this particular field is about 23%. That’s obviously higher than what the granary will allow without docking our price, so we will have to dry after it’s picked.
The choice on whether we should let the corn continue to sit in the field and, hopefully, continue to dry, or whether we should start picking it right away, has a few factors that have to be weighed. Obviously, drying it mechanically is costly, because it can use a lot of fuel. On the other hand, we have to be realistic that our weather is only going to hold out for so long. Once the snow falls, our equipment may not be able to run properly and leaving the crop in the field means we can take some pretty big hits on yields. In some cases, it may just be better to take it to the granary and take the hit.
For now, we’ve decided to harvest the corn at the 23% moisture content, and then dry it mechanically in our grain bins.