7 Tips for Grain Storage
This past fall/winter had some unusual temperature swings. These temperature swings can cause issues with stored grain due to condensation and moisture migration. Proper management is important. Here are seven tips for grain storage.
- Cool stored grain to within 20 degrees of the outside temperature during the fall using aeration. Grain temperature should be cooled to within about 20 degrees of the coldest average monthly temperature or at or below 35-40°F for winter storage. It is not necessary or recommended to freeze the grain. The average outside temperature is figured by taking the high and the low and dividing by two. Get the temperature of the grain at the top of the bin. Once the aeration fans are started to cool the grain do not shut them off until you reach the desired temperature. This allows the cooling front to move completely through the grain. Depending on the size of the storage bin it may take several days to accomplish this.
- Check stored grain biweekly throughout the fall and winter. Check and record the grain’s temperature and condition at several locations. Temperature history can be used to detect grain warming, which may indicate storage problems. Look for indications of problems, such as condensation on the roof or crusting of the grain surface.
- Check for insect infestations. Because insects are dormant at colder temperatures, warm grain samples to room temperature and place the grain on a white cloth to inspect for insect infestations. Grain fumigants will not control an insect infestation adequately if some of the grain is cold. It is not recommended to fumigate for insects if the air temperature is below 50 degrees. The fumigant does not volatilize adequately in cool grain resulting in poor control. However, cooling the grain can control moisture and insect problems. If insects are found once the grain warms up in the spring then fumigation can be performed at that time.
- Open or unlatch the grain bin’s fill or access cover during fan operation to serve as a pressure relief valve. Bin vents may become blocked by frost or ice if fans run when the outdoor air temperature is near or below freezing. The resulting air pressure may damage the bin roof. Cover the aeration fan when it is not operating to prevent pests and moisture in the form of snow, fog and rain from entering the bin.
- Core the bin out to make an inverted cone. If you haven’t moved any grain out of the bin yet this year it is probably a good idea to do so. This will help keep the air flow of the grain as you warm it back up to within 20 degrees of the outside temperature this spring. Pockets of fines, weed seeds and broken kernels tend to be more prevalent in the center of the bin. You should move at least enough to level the bin off or to start an inverted cone. This will also allow you to check the quality of the grain that is moved out of the bin.
- Warm up the grain in the spring. Just like in the fall and winter you need to cool the grain down, you also should slowly warm the grain back up in the spring. I would recommend warming up again to keep the grain temperature within 15-20 degrees of the average daily outside temperature. Once the grain temperature is 55-60 degrees no more warming will be needed.
- Keep area around the bin neat and clean. Keep any spilled grain picked up immediately and mow or spray grass and weeds in a 10 foot perimeter around the bin. This keeps rodents and insects issues down.
Listen here for more on-the-farm grain storage information with an interview with Pam Jahnke and Doug Cropp, Landmark Services Cooperative’s Executive Vice President – Grain Division.
If there is an issue with the grain in the bin, the best way to control it is by moving that grain out to market. The quality of the grain when it goes into the bin will never get better it can only stay the same or deteriorate. If you are unable or unwilling to move the grain once an issue is discovered then proper aeration of the grain is the best control method to keep the quality from getting worse.
BE SAFE! When inspecting, cleaning or emptying grain out of storage bins please use extreme caution and practice all safety practices and procedures. It is not recommended to ever enter a storage bin from the top when it is full of grain. If you need to do so be sure to test the air quality inside the bin with an air quality monitor, make sure all of the unloading equipment is shut off and locked out, have all the required safety equipment and have an observer to help you.