In the fall, a combination of wet soils and wet silage crops is never a good one. In his September issue of Crops and Soils News, Tom Kilcer outlines recommendations to deal with moisture issues this fall. Kilcer is a crop consultant and private researcher based in Kinderhook, N.Y.

1. Wet soils: Kilcer reminds farmers that soil compaction has a long-term impact on crop yields, citing Swedish studies showing repeated compaction dropped production by 20 percent over seven years. “Canadian and U.S. farmers are putting tile lines between tile lines trying to remove water from fields that are evermore compacted by larger equipment running on the wrong tires with improper inflation,” Kilcer writes. Those added tile lines are needed in many cases because water isn’t moving freely through compacted soils.

While total load impacts deeper subsoil compaction, tire pressure affects surface compaction. Running tire pressure in the field needs to be less than 15 pounds per square inch (PSI), suggests Kilcer. He sees some farmers moving to “on-the-go” pressure adjustments on their equipment. With this technology, tires can easily be inflated or deflated between road and field operations.

2. Wet corn silage: A cool to record cool late summer coupled with late planting has put a lot of corn silage fields at risk for freezing before reaching harvest maturity. This translates to corn that may be chopped wetter than desired.

When dealing with a wet silage crop, Kilcer recommends a long theoretical cutting length and opening up the processor rolls as wide as possible. This will reduce leachate runoff and the loss of highly digestible plant sugars. The crop consultant cites University of Wisconsin studies that show no benefit to processing corn silage when it is 70 percent moisture or wetter.

Kilcer also cautions those who are bagging corn silage to back off somewhat on the pressure whether using a rotary or finger press machine; for the latter, make sure the fingers have a square edge.

3. Inoculate: Wet corn silage will benefit from applying a bacterial inoculant. Kilcer cites studies he has done that showed inoculation resulted in a feed with less lignin and higher fiber digestibility. “In wet silages, it’s the inoculant that drives the fermentation,” Kilcer says.

As for the type of inoculant, Kilcer defers to the recommendation of Limin Kung at the University of Delaware. The well-known inoculant researcher says, “For a wet crop, a homolactic (inoculant) will result in a more desirable fermentation than a Lactobacillus buchneri product.”

The complete Kilcer article can be found here.