Harvest & Tech: Pre-Harvest Strategies

August 15, 2017

As we near the end of the season across most parts of the Midwest, there are several pre-harvest strategies that can be used to help ensure your crop finishes to its full potential. Through continued scouting and tracking of crop progression to maturity, you can get your combines rolling in a timely manner and prepare for a successful harvest.


corn field with FarmLogs sign


Keep Scouting Your Fields

Maintaining the habit of field scouting through fall is important because continued scouting will allow you to keep abreast of any late-season pest pressure that occurs in the field.

  • Disease: Although little can be done to treat disease as the corn crop approaches black layer, it’s still important to scout for diseases such as Anthracnose stalk rot and various ear rots such as Diplodia, Fusarium, and Gibberella as these diseases can impact not only the standability of the crop but also the grain quality. If these diseases are identified in the field, it’s important to ensure timely harvest to minimize the level of crop damage.

    In soybeans, be on the lookout for White Mold if conditions have been cool and wet, Frogeye leaf spot if weather has been hot and humid, and Charcoal Rot if conditions have been hot and dry. Although rescue fungicide treatments might be helpful in preserving yield in some situations, it’s more important to understand disease pressure in the late summer in soybean fields to evaluate management practices such as crop rotation and tillage in future crops

  • Weed pressure: Scouting for weeds early in the season is critical, but noting the occurrence of weed escapes, problem areas, and possible cases of herbicide resistance in the fall before harvestis also important so that an adequate control plan can be developed for next season.

 Japanese beetle on a soybean plant. 

Tracking Crop Progress

Field scouting is imperative in tracking crop progress to maturity. Tracking rate of maturity is important to ensure that fields are harvested in a timely and efficient manner to minimize harvest losses. It can also be helpful in evaluating and determining the success of in-season treatments.

In years like this one, where erratic weather has occurred throughout the growing season, late season progress tracking and crop evaluation is even more important in determining the success or lack thereof of in-season practices. Listed below are several things that can be looked at in corn fields, before harvest starts, to assess the success or failure of practices such as plant population, nitrogen timing, and fungicide application.

  • Ear-tip fill: Kernels filled completely to the tip likely indicates that plant population was too low for conditions. About an inch of underdeveloped kernels indicates a plant population that optimally used crop inputs. Use this metric as a parameter to adjust plant populations accordingly next season.

  • Kernel Development: Reduced kernel row number may suggest early stress from V1 to V5 especially if nitrogen or herbicide applications were delayed.  While “Tipping back” or aborted kernels at the tip, indicated by reduced number of kernels per row, can indicate stress immediately following pollination. While stress around pollination is often related to weather conditions, the plant’s response to this stress can often be reduced through the use of timely fungicide or foliar nutrient application. Stress after pollination can produce shallow kernels and reduce test weight. To maximize starch accumulation in the kernels, be sure to ensure the plant has adequate N to successfully progress through reproductive stages. One easy way to make sure your plants have enough nitrogen is to check the lower leaves for firing. If there is no yellowing of the bottom leaves, plants have an adequate supply of N.

  • Standability: Check standability by looking at and feeling stalk internodes. The stalk should be firm and not able to be compressed. If stalks are not firm and are able to be easily compressed, it is often an indication that the plant is cannibalizing from the stalk to grow the ear. At this point in time, little can be done to reverse this but in future seasons, a plan that ensures adequate fertility throughout the season and a fungicide to prolong plant health could be helpful.


Mature ear exhibiting poor tip fill. Source: The Ohio State University


Scouting and Tracking Crop Progress with Tech

So where does technology fit into crop scouting and tracking of crop progress? Crop scouting is complemented by the use of FarmLogs Satellite Imagery. Satellite Imagery provides a continuous eye in the sky view of each field throughout the growing season. These images allow disease, weed, and insect threats to be more quickly identified than through scouting in the field alone and allows for swift treatment to minimize the impact on yield. In the fall, Crop Health Imagery can help identify which fields are ready to be harvested based on dry matter loss.

FarmLogs crop health imagery showing drydown

A series of Satellite images indicating the progress of crop drydown.


Weather data is also useful in field scouting, crop maturity tracking, and harvest planning. It can be used to determine the field conditions and whether or not the conditions are conducive for harvest. Growing Degree Days (GDD) can also be useful for tracking crop maturity. Corn growth is a function of temperature, therefore, growth stage of corn can be determined by the recorded high and low daily temperatures of the season. The tracking of GDD’s can help indicate which fields should be harvested first. Rainfall tracking can help you plan your day better and save you the time and effort of driving to fields to check to see if work can be done.

Incorporating these tips and technology into your pre-harvest plan will help you stay ahead of the crop and be prepared for harvest when the crop reaches maturity. Look for approaches about how to use technology to aid in harvest and post-harvest tasks in future posts!


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Mollie Hoss


Mollie Hoss is passionate about farming and is committed to making a positive impact on agriculture. Growing up in South-Central Illinois, she has been immersed in agriculture from a young age. She attended the University of Illinois where she earned a B.S and an M.S. in Crop Sciences. In 2017, Mollie joined the FarmLogs team as the Agriculture Communications Specialist.