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With so much snow and frost across the country, it’s time to talk about what it means for overall grain quality. Any quality issues will impact storability, harvest and potentially price received for products.

Here’s what Charles Hurburgh, from Iowa State University Extension says to expect with frost-damaged corn grain:

  • Small, misshapen, soft kernels
  • Undeveloped starch structure, pithy kernels
  • Test weight below 52 lbs. per bu.
  • Protein average 7.5% to 8% in corn heavier than 45 lbs. per bu.
  • Susceptible to breakage, so more fines
  • Lower digestibility for livestock
  • Little to no increase in test weight after drying
  • Variable amino acid levels
  • Moisture meters read low in immature corn

The more immature the corn plant at frost, the worse these types of damage will appear when you harvest.

“Immature and frost-damaged corn will have marginal quality, so it’s important to manage equipment carefully to minimize further quality degradation,” according to experts at the University of Wisconsin Extension. “Set combines carefully, to balance the need to get small kernels with kernel damage.”

When it comes to storage:

  • Reduce fines and chaff to minimize mold issues in storage
  • Dry grain to uniform moisture—14% or lower
  • Dry at reduced air temps, below 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Use slow cooling methods after gas-fired drying to minimize quality concerns
  • Aerate stored grain to 20 degrees to 30 degrees Fahrenheit for winter storage

“Frost-damaged corn breaks easily and goes out of condition quickly, even at low moisture levels,” University of Wisconsin Extension experts continue. “Expect storage life to be about half as long as that of normal corn.”