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Corn School: Getting silage corn off to a great start

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April 6, 2021

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There’s always plenty of attention paid to getting grain corn off to a great start, and the same principles apply when it comes to the finer points of planting corn for silage.

With seed deliveries underway and planting season around the corner, Alana Serhan, market development agronomist for Pride Seeds in Western Canada, takes us through the best management practices for planting silage corn in this new Corn School episode.

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To begin, she recommends that a farm grow multiple hybrids: “Having two or even three silage hybrids on farm helps spread out risk, and helps with maturity, making sure whole plant moisture is ideal as we go through the silage chopping season.”

The next critical decision is when to begin planting. Corn won’t germinate until soil temperatures are around 10 degrees Celsius, she explains, noting temperatures near the surface can change depending on sunlight and time of day.

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“That first drink of water that corn seedling takes in needs to be warm,” stresses Serhan. “If it’s going to imbibe that cold drink of water, we see things like cork-screwing, root development but no coleoptile, no emergence happening, and that often leads to a replant scenario.”

One area where the approach to silage corn can differ from grain corn is with seedbed and residue management, as silage producers tend to have more corn-on-corn acres.

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Trash-whippers or row-cleaners are your friend, says Serhan, but make sure they’re set properly.

“We don’t want to create a trench where cold moisture, potentially snow can sit. We only want them tickling the surface moving debris when needed,” she explains.

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Finally, most silage producers have access to manure, but it’s just as important to pay attention to nutrient needs of corn being grown for silage as it is for grain. As a general rule, Serhan says for every tonne of silage, you need about four to six pounds of nitrogen on a per-acre basis. And if you have any ability to put down starter fertilizer, do it, especially in Western Canada in soils that are not always ideal, she says.

Check out Alana Serhan’s conversation with Kelvin Heppner discussing the keys to getting silage corn off to a great start: