Why do farmers let corn die – sweet corn vs. field corn


Almost everyone loves eating corn in summer, but not everyone is fortunate enough to grow it in their garden, as it isn’t as easy as it seems. It requires a lot of time and hard work.

Why do farmers let corn die? Field corn is often left to dry in Sep. & Oct. – a process necessary to improved shelf-life and resilience. Field corn harvest usually occurs in Nov. & Dec., once the corn reaches a moisture level of 15% – Looking like farmers let their corn die.

Reading this article will help you understand exactly why farmers let corn die and how you can choose the best possible variety of corn to grow in your garden.


Field Corn vs. Sweet Corn

You might have heard that field corn is also called cow corn, but why is it so? And, is it edible? And why do farmers use it? And does it taste the same as sweet corn? Well—hold your horses, I’ll answer everything one-by-one.

Farmers grow different corn varieties each year, among which 99% is field corn or cow corn, and the other 1% represents other types of corn—for instance, Sweet corn and Popcorn.

Sweet Corn

Humans primarily consume this type of corn. It includes canned corn, frozen corn, and cob corn. Sweet corn has Yellow/white juicy kernels. Unlike field corn, sweet corn is much softer and sweeter in flavor. Do the harvest of sweet corn when the grains are immature and moist.

Field Corn    

On the other hand, you can use field or cow corn to feed animals. It is taller than sweet corn and has fully developed leaves. Field corn is not as sweet as sweet corn and hard from outside.

Farmers leave field corn in the field to dry before the harvest in fall. It has yellow kernels bigger than sweet corn with a small dent on it. This dent is often called dent corn, which shows that the corn is dried.


Uses Of Field Corn

Field or feed corn has many uses, for example:

  1. You can use it to feed livestock and use its fat and protein part to make distiller grains for animals.
  2. You can use field corn starch to make ethanol that works as a fuel in cars and trucks.
  3. It processes field corn to produce corn syrup, cornstarch, corn cereal, and corn oil.
  4. Industrial uses include using it as a base ingredient in tortillas, taco shells, cornflour, and other food manufacturing.
  5. The United States exports around 8% of field corn to other countries globally.
  6. 5% of the total corn is stored, often called seed corn, and used next year.


The Reason Why Farmers Let Corn “Die”

Corn moisture is around 30%. For optimal harvest practices, corn needs to dry down to 15%. It requires expensive heavy dryers to dry the crop artificially. The alternative is natural drying processes; they take a lot longer but overall are more feasible for farmers. Drying is essential for storage and prevents the crops from spoilage in the months before it is sold or fed to their livestock.


How Are Corn Stalks Used After The Ear Is Harvested

After harvesting the corn, what now? What to do with the leftover?

Every year after harvesting the large residues of corn stalks left on the ground, removing these stalks is essential. Otherwise, the stalks may become a hindrance the next year. Often farmers use these stalks to increase the organic material ratio of their soil. These stalks are chopped to about 12-18 inches and left to decompose over the winter. Often, Tilling is used to help speed up the breakdown of residues.


FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

What are the suitable weather conditions for corn to grow?

Corn is a summer crop. It grows best during long sun-filled days and warm temperatures. Corn isn’t winterhardy. Make sure you start your outdoor plants after last spring frost weeks.

Corn usually takes between 60-100 days to mature, depending on the variety. For example, Seneca Horizon and Earlivee take 58 – 65 days to harvest, whereas Platinum lady, Silver Queen, and Camelot need around 86-92 days to grow.

If you live in an area where the growing season is short, you start your corn plants indoors and transplant them once it’s warm enough.

What are the methods used for corn drying?

Sun-drying is the traditional approach used to dry grains. In this method, grains are spread on the ground and exposed to sunlight, evaporating most moisture content. Due to the low cost, it’s the go-to practice till today.

 Other methods of corn drying are as follows;

  1. In-bin drying
  2. Batch and continuous flow Drying
  3. Layer drying
  4. Portable batch and constant flow drying
  5. Combination drying
  6. Dryeration

What are corn soil requirements?

Besides warm weather, corn needs rich and moist soil with a pH around 5.8-6.8. Corn seed needs a germination temperature of around 50-65°F.

Corn thrives in well-drained, typically sandy loam soil. Consider covering the ground with black plastic as it absorbs more heat and helps warm up the soil faster during springtime.

To improve the quality of soil, add compost, grass, and leaves to it. Organic matter will also improve drainage, especially for heavy clay soil. Check out this article to read about creating perfect soil.

Is field corn safe to eat?

Field corn isn’t used for human consumption. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat it. Some people eat field corn – raw and roasted – but it tastes less sweet & juicy compared to normal supermarket corn. Field corn is hard to eat naturally, but many consumable products like corn flour are made from it.

Does corn need to be soaked before planting?

Yes, you need to soak corn plants before planting. Corn seeds are dehydrated for storage purposes. Soaking the seeds in water overnight will revitalize the plant inside and trigger the germination process, given the right temperatures.



Now you know why farmers let corn die – to dry up the moisture. But along with this answer, you know that sweet corn and field corn are not the same.

You can directly consume sweet corn, but not field corn. Farmers leave field corn in fields for storage and thus prevent the corn from spoilage.

Lastly, there is a good deal of residue reduction methods, and you can choose the one that meets your requirements. Factors to keep in mind while selecting the reduction method are farm size, weather, soil type, fertilization practices, and corn production sales.