Corn Silage Dry Down Update: Week of September 17

Casey Guindon, Field and Forage Crops Penn State Extension

Penn State Extension educators continue monitoring corn silage dry down across Pennsylvania.

Management of Immature Corn Silage

Due to this year’s wet spring, many corn fields intended for silage harvest were planted much later than optimal. This delay in planting has resulted in many fields that will not mature to the proper moisture content before our first frost arrives. While these conditions are not ideal, there are many steps producers can take to maximize the quality of forage from these fields.



Corn damaged by frost often appears drier than non-frosted corn at the same moisture content. While the leaves may brown and dry quickly, the stalks and ears do not dry as quickly. These plants should be left in the field to reach a more adequate moisture content for proper ensiling. Dry matter loss through leaf shatter will occur. However, leaf dry matter only makes up about 15% of total dry matter in the plant, so delayed harvest will maintain quality for most of the corn plant.

Increasing the cutting height of corn silage can also help to reduce the moisture content of the harvested material. According to researchers at the University of Florida (Paula et al., 2019), a 12-inch increase in cutting height increased the dry matter percentage of the silage by 2.5-3.0%, but reduced forage yield by 0.7 tons DM/acre. The increase in cutting height increased forage quality of the harvested material, but reduced milk production per acre due to the reduction in yield. However, in extremely wet silage conditions, this reduction in moisture content can be critical in keeping silo-stable forage.



In cases of extremely immature corn silage, field wilting may be the best management technique to get the plant to the optimal moisture content. According to researchers at Ohio State, corn that has not reached dough stage prior to the first killing frost will not reach a low enough moisture content for proper fermentation. In this case, mowing the crop prior to chopping will help to reduce the moisture content. Special consideration must be taken to optimize equipment effectiveness and minimize soil contamination. See this article from Ohio State for further recommendations.

To get an estimation of current corn silage conditions around the state, extension educators around the state continue dry down sampling. This chart illustrates dry-down testing and growing degree day accumulations for this week’s sampling effort.

County Hybrid Planting Date Sample Date Moisture
Bradford Pioneer 0921 June 8 Sept. 16 79%
Lancaster Pioneer 0843 May 23 Sept. 3 65%
Lancaster Dekalb (97 day) May 24 Sept. 10 28%
Lancaster Pioneer1197AM May 18 Sept. 10 66%
Lancaster Pioneer1316AM May 24 Sept. 10 65%

Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by Penn State Extension is implied.


Paula, E.M., B.A. Saylor, J. Goeser, and L.F. Ferraretto. 2019. Influence of cutting height on nutrient composition and yield of whole-plant corn silage through a meta-analysis. J. Dairy Science (102)1, 104.

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