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NC State Extension

Corn Silage 2014

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Official Variety Testing Program

In 2014, North Carolina growers planted over 29,000 acres of corn for silage. Silage is an important part of the beef and dairy cattle industry in North Carolina, particularly in the Piedmont and Mountain regions.

The performance of various corn hybrids in different areas of the state depends on their adaptation to the environmental conditions within the area. With the large number of commercially available and prospective hybrids of corn, it becomes difficult for growers to select a superior hybrid suited for their particular area of the state and their individual farming operations. To make this decision, the growers need up-to-date, unbiased, reliable information. The Official Variety Testing Program at North Carolina State University seeks to provide that information through this report.

This report provides information for corn silage production. It contains information on experimental procedure, current season weather and performance results, as well as, performance for the previous two years when possible. A corn silage trial is conducted in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.

Growers are cautioned against selecting hybrids based on an individual location in any one year. True hybrid performance may have been influenced by the weather or pest conditions experienced in any one growing season. Therefore, performance results are also reported on a two and three-year basis, where possible.

map Silage

LocationRowan County
Piedmont Research Station, Salisbury, N.C.
Joe Hampton, Superintendent

Entries: During the 2014 growing season, 27 hybrids (Table 1) were evaluated in the North Carolina silage trial. Applicants provided seed to conduct the statewide trials. Entries were requested to have the fungicidal and insecticidal seed treatments of choice.

Field Plot Design: A randomized, complete block design was used, with five replications per entry. Plots were planted as 28 feet long, and end trimmed approximately 4 weeks after emergence, to establish a uniform plot length of 22 feet. Each harvest plot consisted of two rows 22 feet long at 30-inch row width. Plots were contiguous across the field, thereby reducing border effect. The two rows were harvested for yield.

Crop Management: Cultural practices, such as seedbed preparation, planting date, fertilization and topdressing were in accord with good farming practices and were uniform for all entries in a given trial (Table 2). Prior to planting, soil samples were collected from the field and submitted to NCDA Agronomic Services Division for soil chemical analysis. Fertilizer and lime applications were made according to NCDA soil test recommendations. In 2014, all entries in the silage trial were planted at 34,000 ppa.

Seasonal Conditions: The 2014 silage trial was planted on time  (Table 2). Precipitation and temperature data are provided on a weekly basis to provide detail of the 2014 growing season (Rowan, Figure 2a). These data are also presented on a monthly basis to compare this season’s weather to the 30-year average weather data (Rowan, Figures 2b and c). The Rowan trial experienced a wet April, but the rest of the season experienced normal rainfall.

Weather conditions this season provided the perfect conditions for Southern Rust infestation across North Carolina this season, however we only observed Southern Rust in two of our trials. The Rowan County trial was infected after the dent stage, so yield was not affected.

Silage harvest occurred later than desired; evident by the percent dry matter at harvest. Silage corn dried down faster than anticipated, due to a week of dry weather. Harvest was delayed a few more days due to ground conditions following a heavy rain.

Data and Results

Plant height: Height of fully matured plants was measured from ground level to the flag leaf node. All values are reported as  averages.

Silage YieldAt harvest, silage was weighed at field moisture.Sub-samples were collected at harvest and oven-dried at 140 °F to measure percent moisture and dry matter at harvest. These values were used to calculate dry matter yield (tons per acre) and silage yield which is reported at 65% moisture (Table 27). Additionally, all yield values reflect an 18.2% yield reduction to account for border effects that have been determined in our field trials. Therefore, reported yields indicate relative performance and may differ from on-farm yields. Multiple year performance for silage corn is reported for hybrids entered for two and three years in the North Carolina Official Variety Trials (Table 26).

MILK2006: Silage samples were sent to Dairy One Forage Testing Laboratory to analyze forage quality using near infrared reflectance (NIR) spectroscopy. Many characteristics were analyzed using the NIR 48-hr NDFD incubation period. Several of these: dry matter, crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD), starch, ash and fat were used to calculate milk production using the MILK2006 equation developed at the University of Wisconsin (Shaver, 2006). These values are a useful tool to assess relative milk production of hybrids. Milk production is reported as pounds per acre and pounds per ton dry matter. Hybrids are ranked based on milk production per acre (Table 27).