Ensuring Quality Silage After Excessive Rains and Flooding

Large amounts of precipitation and flooding occurred throughout Pennsylvania this summer, and harvesting quality corn silage could be of concern.

Corn that will be harvested as silage, and was previously in standing water during the growing season can be of concern when it comes to forage quality and palatability. Bacterial contaminants and silt can lead to animal health and fermentation problems.


According to a Cornell University publication by Paul Cerosaletti and Dale Dewing, silt deposition on standing corn can result in greater risk for clostridial contamination, as the primary source of clostridium bacteria is found in soil. If silage does not undergo the desired lactate fermentation and undergoes clostridial fermentation, moisture levels can reach greater than 70%, the pH is typically greater than 5.0, and a rank odor can be detected. This type of fermentation also causes deadly botulism toxins. Soil-contaminated forage can also contain coliform and listeria bacteria.


Corn that has been flooded and has a large amount of silt deposition on the standing forage could be of less risk to animal health and improper fermentation if it dried down and is harvested for grain. If the silt is found only on the portion of the plant near the ground, consider raising the chopping height so soil particles are not integrated into the chopped forage.

Table 1: Corn Silage Moisture from 4 farms in Southeastern Pennsylvania as of September 3, 2018

Hybrid DOP RM PPA Milk Line
Pioneer PO843AM 8-May 108 34000 0.50 68%
Pioneer 28-May 108 36000 0.33 73%
Growmark FS 58R47 8-May 108 36000 0.75 62%
Seedway 6630 Gen SSRIB 8-May 110 32000 0.33 68%

A publication from Cornell University goes more in depth on what to look for with flood damaged corn and management factors to consider.

Soil accumulation on corn as a result of flooding. Image credit: Alyssa Collins.