Planning for corn silage production
Corn silage production strategies depend on when the decision is made
to utilize corn fields for silage. Some producers plan that specific fields
will be harvested for silage before planting; others wait until late in
the season to make this decision. The decision to harvest a field for
silage from the outset is common farms where corn is grown only for silage
or where particular fields are used only for silage production. The advantage
of this strategy is that cultural practices such as hybrid selection,
plant populations, and fertilizer applications can be adjusted specifically
for maximizing the potential of this crop for silage.
Delaying the decision on which fields to harvest for silage is a strategy
that is commonly used on many farms where corn is grown for both silage
and grain. The advantage of this system is that producers are able to
salvage fields for silage that may have had a production problem and may
have low and uneconomical grain yields. Also, producers may use this strategy
to adjust the amount of silage harvested based on forage requirements.
This strategy is best adapted to areas where corn production is more risky,
for example, on droughty or wet soils, in areas with marginal precipitation,
or in short season areas where frost is frequently a problem. The disadvantage
of this system is that the corn is usually managed for grain production,
and some silage yield may be sacrificed.
Selecting soils that are best adapted to corn silage production is a key
aspect of profitable production. Corn silage can be produced on soils
where grain production would not be economical because of the greater
returns from the silage harvest. Nevertheless, some soils are not well
adapted to corn silage production because of drainage problems or low
Wet soils frequently delay planting and cause harvest problems. Delaying
planting creates several potential problems: yield potential is decreased,
crop maturity is often delayed, and conflicts arise between corn planting
and forage crop harvesting. In this situation, either soil drainage or
other crops should be considered if corn silage production is not economical.
Larger machinery may also be needed to improve timeliness on these soils.
Where the soil water-holding capacity is low, on shallow or stony soils,
or in areas that receive marginal rainfall, other crops may be better
adapted than corn silage. Typical substitutes for corn silage in these
situations include forage sorghum, grain sorghum, small grains, or other
forage crops. Often, these crops may not produce a forage with the quality
and/or yield of corn silage, but their establishment costs are lower and
their yields may be less variable. To determine whether these alternative
crops would be profitable, compare production costs against value of the
Corn silage production may also be limited on erodible soils, unless you
implement conservation measures such as reduced tillage, strip cropping,
or the establishment of cover crops immediately after harvest.