In a weather driven market, pretty much anything can happen to grain prices. Add unpredictable trade agreements, and you have even more reason to plan ahead. Many market strategies are leaning toward long-term grain storage of a year, or more. Being proactive with your stored grain strategy is a must for an unpredictable market. These 14 long-term grain storage tips will help you get the most out of your operation.
Experts are predicting another large crop harvest for 2018. The USDA report came out August 10, followed by two private crop estimate reports later in August. The USDA has U.S. crop estimates at 178.4 for corn and 51.6 for soybeans. The other two produced similar numbers, confirming USDA estimates.
Farmers were already getting creative with on-farm storage in 2017. Crop yields were high in both 2016 and 2017, forcing some farmers to use piles and bags, or sell. Those are appropriate options for short-term grain storage. But, aerated bins with temperature monitoring provide the only sure way to store grain long-term and keep it in condition.
To help you get the most payback from your labors, here are 14 long-term grain storage tips for this year’s harvest.
Get Your Grain Bins Ready
Clean bins to rid them of leftover grain that may have insects, taking care to thoroughly clean under floors. If you discover insects, fumigate the bin at least five weeks prior to storing new grain. Install or check grain temperature monitoring cables.
Don’t Waste Grain Storage Life
Respecting grain shelf life is essential for long-term grain storage. At harvest, holding wet grain before drying uses up a significant portion of your grain’s long-term storage time. Wet holding times should be limited to four to eight hours to avoid problems with allowable storage time.
Dry Grain to the Proper Moisture Content
Long-term grain storage depends on the moisture content of the grain. You cannot get around the physical laws of grain storage. If you plan to store corn for the longest possible storage time, it needs to be dried to 13%. For soybeans, it’s 11%. And wheat needs to be 12.5%. (Keep in mind that selling grain under 14% moisture content reduces weight.)
Test the Weight of Your Grain
High test weights mean grain has good storage properties. You’ll want a majority of kernels to have no cracks where molds can start. Corn that field dried frequently has higher test weights. The best test weight for long-term grain storage is above 58 pounds per bushel.
Store Quality Grain
Your freshly harvested grain is the best it will ever be. Grain doesn’t improve during storage. With that in mind, your grain’s condition at harvest will determine how well it stores. Grain with a low test weight, lots of fines, damaged kernels, and other problems makes it harder to store for long periods of time. Good quality grain increases storage time.
Don’t Mix Your New Grain with Old
Never mix your newly harvested grain with currently stored grain. If you must mix grain to make more room for this year’s harvest, combine old crops together. Thoroughly clean and prepare bins for storing your new harvest. Mixing new grain that’s not yet stable with old grain invites storage problems.
Level Your Grain in the Bin
You may think peaking grain in storage adds greater storage capacity, the reality is that peaks cause airflow resistance. You’ll have to run your fans about 50% more to cool peaked grain vs. level grain in equally-sized bins. Peaking also makes it more dangerous and difficult to monitor stored grain.
Aerate Your Grain to Lower Temperature
Think about aeration as a means to control your grain’s temperature, not moisture content. Use a grain spreader to evenly distribute fines in small bins, or use repetitive coring to redistribute fines from the center. Cooling must move completely through the grain before turning off and covering fans once grain reaches the desired temperature.
Control Your Grain’s Temperature
Monitor your grain through the entire storage period. A small area of heated or out of condition grain can quickly spread out of control. The best way to monitor your grain is with temperature monitoring systems in concert with aeration. Portable grain temperature monitoring is a popular and affordable choice. Remote grain monitoring offers easy, 24/7 monitoring.
Keep Grain Cool in Summer
Old School rules were to keep your grain temperature within 10° to 15° of the outdoor temperature. These days, it’s recommended that you keep grain at approximately 40° during spring and summer – 50° tops. These temperatures keep insects dormant and deter mold.
Check Your Grain Continuously
This is where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you always know what’s going on inside your grain bins, you can take corrective action. Aeration fans usually do the trick. You’ll save money knowing when and when not to run fans. By far the best way to prevent grain spoilage is with frequent grain temperature monitoring. Grain should be checked every 14 days during spring and summer, at a minimum.
Control Insect Activity
Long-term storage can provide the perfect opportunity for unwelcome insects. Avoid infestation by cleaning and sterilizing bins, and loading them with good condition insect-free grain. Chill grain to 20° in winter months to kill insects and eggs on the drying floor and in the bin.
Look for Potential Storage Problems
Fans that have iced over, condensation on your grain bin’s roof, or the discovery of insects present the potential for storage problems. If aeration doesn’t correct the problem, the only other solution is emptying the bin to the problematic area. Monitoring your grain’s temperature with Tri-States Grain Conditioning temperature cables will avoid many potential storage problems.
Give Grain an Occasional Sniff Test
At your bin site, turn on aeration fans for a minute to get a good whiff of the first air coming out of the bin. If it smells bad, there’s a problem. By the time you can smell it though, the problem is significant. Again, temperature monitoring cables can prevent problems from getting this far.
Long-term Grain Storage Tips in Summary
To keep stored grain in the best condition over the long haul, you have to bring all the best practices to bear. Promptly get good condition grain dried, weight tested, and stored in sanitized bins. Store newly harvested grain separately from old grain. Get grain to the proper temperature and moisture content for long-term storage. Monitor your grain frequently for changes in temperature, which indicates storage problems. Address problems before they get out of hand. Pat yourself on the back for getting the most value out of your stored grain at market.
At Tri-States Grain Conditioning, we can help you choose from among three affordable portable grain monitoring systems. Or, choose GrainTrac – a complete wireless solution that lets you check grain remotely. A temperature monitoring system is the absolute best way to manage stored grain.
(Source: University of Tennessee Extension)
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