Grain storage prep is one of the most important things to do for your harvested crop, monitoring your stored grain’s temperature is the other.

As harvest season wraps up, it’s time to store the grain you’ve collected. But with export markets currently unstable, this year’s crop may need to be stored for months instead of weeks. Right now, soybeans are hovering around $9.14 a bushel, the lowest price since early this fall.

As you consider ways to improve your farm’s finances, now you face another question. Do you take the lower price and possibly risk losing money on the crop, or do you set it aside? Either way, you’ll want to be sure your grain storage prep is handled.

Before you make that decision, we suggest you take a walk around your property. Are you set up for long-term storage? If not, here are some easy ways to solve that problem.

Check Your Equipment

Before storing grain, you need functional grain bins. Grain storage prep means bins need to be repaired, if needed, and updated, if possible. Yes, we know it’s tempting to hold off on repairs or replacements, hoping that rusty patch or the damaged panel will last one more year. The problem is that all those issues, no matter how small they may seem, can lead to major damage and ruin the crop. For example, leaks can bring in water, mold or insects, while rust-caused holes can create air pockets in the bin.

Secure bins can stop these problems before they start. First, examine the entire structure. That means going over the roof panels, stairs, vents and all connections. Are there any missing bolts, or doors that aren’t watertight? These need to be repaired or replaced as soon as possible. Also, check inside the vents to make sure there’s no old grain, dead insects or other debris that could limit or cut off airflow.

Once all of that’s done, it’s time to make sure your bin’s foundation is balanced. This should be done for every bin, to make sure the foundation is flat and level without any gaps. It’s important because if the foundation isn’t level, it can allow air to escape or provide a door for insects and rodents to come in. Finally, check your fan blades to guarantee they can spin freely.

Avoid Insect Damage

We mentioned the need to check equipment, but there are other steps you need to take to avoid insects damaging the crop. According to a 2018 report from the University of Kentucky, “Stored grain insect infestations rarely begin in the field. Most develop from (a) small number of pests already present in or around farm storage bins.”

The best way to stop that from happening, the report said, was to make sure the bins are empty when you put grain in. That means removing all old grain, even if you must take a broom or a vacuum in to finish the job. “Be especially careful to clear dust (and) webbing from around any cracks and crevices, doors, seams, vents and especially under false floors,” the report says. The reason is that even small bits of old grain may hold enough insects to cause a problem.

Once the grain bins are empty, the report recommends that you spray the interiors with an insecticide at least two weeks before bringing in the crop. True, it can be hard to make sure all of it is covered, but be sure to spray any vents, false floors and doors, where insects might try to enter. You can also spray a “protectant” to the grain as you put it in the bin. These treatments last for six months at most but will stop pests like beetles or caterpillars from eating your crop.

Prep Grain Storage Equipment

Most farmers can’t just build new structures at the snap of a finger. The money isn’t there, even if you need more space for long-term grain storage. If your current bins aren’t enough to hold the crop, there’s a cheaper option. With a few changes, you can use old corn silos for the job.

The Purdue University Extension office has a step-by-step example of how to use the older structure. The main issue is that dry grain puts more pressure on bins than corn due to the weight. With this in mind, you need to check the walls and make sure they can handle the pressure. It doesn’t help anyone if wall panels collapse in the middle of winter. Once that grain spills out, you’ve lost it. Also, the walls must be secure enough to allow airtight storage. Re-enforcing the walls solves both of those problems.

Finally, if the silo doesn’t already have a concrete floor, it’s a good idea to create one. The Extension office recommends for the floor to “reach the height above the surrounding soil grade around the silo.”

Monitor Temperature

One thing farmers constantly disagree on is how often to check grain after it’s stored. That’s the final issue, when it comes to grain storage prep, especially if you expect to store it for up to a year. A 2018 Purdue University study recommended monitoring grain temperature on a weekly basis at minimum. However, the wrong circumstances could cause you to need to monitor your grain in real time, hour by hour.

On average, the study found grain temperatures range from 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in storage. You want to make sure the grain is at 55 degrees or lower to prevent mold or mildew. Depending on what moisture level your grain is delivered at, you could risk some drying and shrinkage as well if it stays at higher temperatures. Temperature monitoring will ensure you aren’t overdrying.

Knowing the temperature of the grain doesn’t just prevent mold. You can extend storage time and save on electric bills. How do you manage that last part? Well, you can set up the system to run fans only until the grain cools down. You don’t even have to check the conditions in person. Remote systems can handle that, so you can check temperatures and make decisions from your phone or laptop.

For more advice about grain storage prep, and grain temperature monitoring in general, call us at 1-800-438-8367, contact us here or live chat to ask about the right grain monitoring system for your farm.

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