Maize for Silage
Insight 347


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In some seasons wind can do considerable damage to maize. The worst affected crops are either broken below the cob or are completely flat on the ground. In determining what to do with crops, it is important to categorise how much of the paddock is affected and how bad the damage is.


The impact on yield and rate of crop maturation will be determined largely by how much the crop is leaning and the degree of disruption to the roots and/or stems. Maize that still has reasonable plant-to-soil contact and stems that are bent (also known as goose necking) but still able to transport water and nutrients should mature, but at a slower pace than unaffected plants. Maize silage crops which are still several weeks from silage harvest maturity (30-38% drymatter) may eventually need to be early harvested to allow timely regrassing or winter crop establishment. 

Where maize is leaning very badly (>30 oC), shading of the leaves will have a major influence on plant photosynthesis. In the worst-case scenario plants will eventually shut down and die as they are unable to supply carbohydrates required for kernel growth.

Monitor crops on a regular basis checking for further wind damage and any signs of plant death.


Stalk breakage above the cob, results in significant yield loss. Crops should be left to mature, although those which are still several weeks from silage harvest maturity (30-38% drymatter) may eventually need to be early harvested to allow timely regrassing or winter crop establishment. For more information see Pioneer Technical Insight 348: Wet Maize Silage.


Crops which are either broken below the cob or are flat on the ground will result in all or a substantial part of the plant dying.  Kernels on the ears (cobs) will likely abort due to loss of photosynthetic capacity. As a result, yield and quality are significantly affected depending on the stage of development.

Crops should be monitored carefully and harvested when they are greater than 28% and preferably at least 30% whole plant drymatter. This reduces the risk of effluent run-off from the silage stack and increases the chance of a good fermentation. Please note: where crop damage is significant, crops may reach this drymatter level within a few days of wind damage. 

When harvesting maize silage crops where some or all of the plant material is on the ground

  • Keep the harvester speed down and harvest in the opposite direction to which the plants are lying. This will increase the amount of material that is picked up off the ground. 
  • Ensure that chop length matches crop drymatter content. Wet crops (<30% drymatter) should be chopped at 18-20mm theoretical chop length to reduce the risk of run-off from the silage stack.  
  • Inoculate with Pioneer® brand 11C33 maize silage inoculant. Maize silage made from soil-contaminated crops is particularly susceptible to poor aerobic stability. (Aerobic stability is a measure of how long silage remains cool and retains its quality after the stack is opened at feed-out time). There is also an increased risk of heating with immature crops due to high sugar levels. Inoculating with 11C33 will improve fermentation quality and reduce the risk of heating at feed-out time. While silage inoculated with 11C33 can be fed immediately after harvest, maximum aerobic stability gains will be made when it is fermented 30 days prior to feeding. 
  • Employ good harvest and stack management techniques. Ensure that the material is harvested as quickly as possible. It should be well compacted and sealed. Careful feed-out management (e.g. keeping the stack face tight at feed-out time is also critical. 


The feed value of maize silage made from wind damaged crops will vary depending on a number of factors including the stage of crop maturity at harvest time, the cutting height and the amount of plant material left in the paddock. It is recommended that a representative maize silage sample is taken 30 days after harvest and sent to a commercial laboratory for feed analysis. Your local Pioneer Representative can help you to interpret the results and can also provide feeding recommendations. 


Rain, Hail, Wind: What Next? Purdue Corny News Update Network Article. Published 9 July 2003

Wind Damage in Corn, Penn State University Corn Management and Soybean Management Notes. Accessed 6 March, 2012.

Best Practices for Harvesting Wind Damaged Corn. Agronomy Library. Pioneer Hi-Bred International 2012.

Wind Damage in Corn. The Bulletin. University of Illinois Extension. Issue No 15, Article 5/July 15, 2011.

Corn Development and Maturity as Affected by Wind Storm Damage. Minnesota Crop e-News. 1 September 2006.

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Revised: August 2017
Expires: August 2018