App helps farmers make the most of their corn harvest

A new tool developed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison could save farmers time and money during the fall feed-corn harvest and make for more content, productive cows year-round.

The innovation isn’t a physical farm implement, but a smartphone app. With just a handful of harvested corn, the app allows farmers to gauge — without leaving the field — the effectiveness of their harvesting machinery so that they can achieve the highest-quality cracked corn.

The app — named SilageSnap — is now available for free download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. More information is available at

Cracking corn breaks up the tough outer kernel, exposing the nutritious starch inside.

“Cracked corn makes the feed easier to digest, so cows can produce more milk,” says Brian Luck, a UW–Madison assistant professor of biological systems engineering and extension machinery systems specialist, who helped develop the app.

Farmers can fine-tune their harvests to a certain extent by controlling the width of the gap between the wheels: Narrower spaces squeeze kernels more strongly, but also slow down the equipment — and thus, the harvest; wider gaps allow the machines to move faster, but risk leaving too many kernels intact.

“The problem is, when the harvester goes through the field, there’s no way for farmers to tell how well they cracked the kernels,” says Luck.

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