How Do You Know When to Harvest Corn?
| July 25, 2023 |

As we get one month closer to harvest, it’s time to start monitoring when your crops are ready. While there is no real time to uncover exactly when to harvest your crops, ag technology and key indicators help to monitor crop growth and development to pinpoint harvest readiness.  

While puncturing the corn and determining its kernels are in the “milk stage” may work, it gets rather complicated and time-consuming in large acreage farms or multiple plots. Ag technology has played a significant role in simplifying the process of determining when corn is ready for harvest at a larger scale. 

Harvesting at the right time results in the highest yields – waiting too long or harvesting too early can diminish yield potential. So, how can you pinpoint the perfect time for harvest? 


Factors to Consider When Harvesting 

Harvesting any crop requires the right time and the optimal conditions to ensure readiness and higher potential yields. And this year has been short of ideal conditions between combating the drought ravaging a variety of states and dealing with other extreme weather events. Drought during each stage of the growing season has the capability to impact end-of-season corn productivity and essentially harvest.  

Early-season drought (which many of us have dealt with this year) often shortens the plant height and limits the number of ovules, or potential kernels. This is due to drought stress causing poor pollination during this critical stage in corn development. And this stress continues to have a heightened impact on end-of-season yields as the season progresses. 

Not only is drought detrimental to end-of-year yields, but it also plays a role in developing and altering decisions and the strategy behind when to harvest corn. If drought has had a limited impact on your corn’s pollination, then maintaining the usual harvest plan will work fine. But the issue comes when there is poor pollination, forcing you to adjust your plan of when to and how to harvest corn. Harvest management decisions depend primarily on remaining yield potential – which can be best seen with the insights provided by ag technology.  


Unlocking Deeper Insights with Ag Technology

Ag drones and sensors have transformed the capabilities of data collection, making it more efficient and accurate than many manual methods. This has allowed data capture to be completed 25% faster, while covering 100% coverage of acreage. And, it can help to inform boots-on-the-ground scouting, which continues to be an important aspect of measuring crop performance throughout the season. Leveraging these tools to collect data has opened the door for real-time and subjective data, helping to better inform decisions and gain a more accurate understanding of performance. 

You can dive even deeper into performance with multispectral indices like Normalized Difference Red Edge (NDRE). This vegetative index is able to pick up key indicators in even late-season crops.  

NDRE gives better insight into later stage crops as it is able to measure further down in the canopy. So, if a plant is dealing with stress from drought, disease, or any other factors negatively affecting development, NDRE is able to pick it up and help you to focus on a specific area. 

The imagery captured by ag drones and sensors can be transformed into actionable analytics like Sentera’s Tassel Count. This real-time data provided by aerial imagery and data analytics gives you an indication of what you can expect for end-of-season yields; helping to identify which products may have performed the best for the season (and inform early sales for next season).  

The data can get as granular as you would like – down to the kernel. By using Kernel Counting capabilities in FieldAgent, it’s possible to identify how many kernels you can expect from your acreage.  

At this point in the season, it may feel like analytics can’t tell you anything new – but they can turn those late-season decisions into a more productive end of season yield. By better informing boots-on-the-ground scouting, you are able to save time and ensure you are focusing on the necessary areas to heighten the chances of higher yields – all while informing decisions for the season ahead. 


Using Tassel Count Analytics to Uncover Critical Insight 

Ag analytics are a crucial piece in determining when to harvest corn by providing a detailed look at your fields and crops. Specifically, Sentera’s Tassel Count analytics unlock deeper insights into how your corn is performing while indicating yield down to the tassel.  

Tassel Count provides the last indication of in-season yield, mapping a clear picture of performance and gives the opportunity for necessary late-season decisions to maximize yield. Whether it be your own field or assisting your growers, this look into performance can be vital in understanding what yields are going to look like and informing those critical decisions around harvest.  

Not only does this final indication of yield provide a look into this season’s productivity, but it can also inform early decisions regarding seeds and products needed for a more successful season in the following year. Whether it be informing your growers decisions around early purchase of products or making your own product choices, this data plays a significant role in proving quality and product performance.  

With issues around supply chain continuing, making early decisions could be cost efficient and ensure you get the products needed for a successful next season.  


Want to learn more about using ag data to inform harvest decisions? Download our eBook, Best Practices: How to Use Crop Health to Increase Sales.
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