What Happens to Cornfields after the Summer?

You’ve enjoyed your sweet summer corn, but the fields aren’t done with their harvest.

Driving through central Illinois in early October, the lush green fields are now shriveled and brown. But still beautiful.

Illinois Corn Fields Ready for Combine Harvest

What Happens to the Corn Fields?

I had the chance to watch corn being combined–and it’s a well choreographed dance. With multi-ton machinery.

The combine is so named because it combines three functions: harvest, thresh and clean–at a hefty cost: $400,000 just for the combine, not the supplemental trucks, et al.

The objective: after the summer harvest for fresh corn, to separate the remaining stalks and parts for other uses. Stay tuned to find out what they are.

Watch this YouTube video to see what happens to the field.  After minute 3:00 it’s duplicative; then skip to 8:30 for scenes of what happens to the corn after it’s harvested.

What Exactly is Being Harvested?

  • Straw: it’s the leftover dried stems and leaves. This is used to bed livestock. And for scarecrows. Duh.
  • Corn kernels: for popcorn (?) and cornmeal feed. The kernels are what we see being dumped and chuted in the video.
  • Everything gets used but the squeal.
A corn field after combining

A corn field after combining

A corn field after combining

Flotsam and jetsam left on the field after the combine’s pass



Yet another real-world education for a city girl. I never thought about what happens to the corn stalks. Have you?

4 Responses

This is why you were so wise to take the leap and do “slow” travel. Usually, we are whizzing by cornfields on the interstate without ever stopping to just wonder. I’m really glad you like to write too so we can share in your observations vicariously.


You even taught this Iowa girl a thing or two about corn. One fun fact I know about corn–besides the fact that Iowa produces more than any other state–is that only 1% of corn grown in America is sweet corn. The rest … feed and seed. Nice time of year to be in the midwest. Thanks again Paula for sharing your adventure.

Nancy – feed and seed. Thanks for the lingo! And know that I thought about you so much while working on this post! 🙂


It’s like a ginormous buzz cut.

I thought they just used the old cornfields as movie sets for Children of the Corn sequels … hmm.

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