Protecting grain in storage a savvy investment, specialist says
How much time would you be willing to spend to protect a $40,000 investment?
Grain producers need to consider that question every fall, University of Illinois Extension agricultural and biological engineer Ted Funk says in a recent university report.
"Harvest time will be here before we know it," says Funk. "Producers could be storing anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 of grain in a 10,000-bushel bin. It's a wise investment of time to prepare the bin and the grain for storage."
Grain quality can be maintained in storage if it's managed properly, said Funk, and he suggested the following steps for preparing a bin for storage:
- Repair any holes that may allow water to enter. Check for holes by looking for sunlight coming into the bin. However, don't seal openings intended for aeration.
- Clean the inside of the bin using brooms and/or a vacuum.
- Examine the inside of aeration ducts for debris and insects.
- Service the aeration ducts, fans and vents to ensure proper operation.
- Clean around the outside of the bin.
Grain stores best when it is dry, clean and cool, said Funk.
"Weed seeds and foreign material are usually wetter than the grain, and will accumulate in the center when the grain is loaded into a bin," Funk says. "That material should be removed from the grain. Use a grain cleaner before storage, then unload some grain using a center take-out after the bin has been filled or distribute the material while filling the bin."
Funk said temperature also plays an important role in grain storage.
"Insects thrive at temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit," he says. "Temperatures below 70 degrees reduce insect reproduction and feeding activity, and below 50 degrees insects become dormant."
Lower temperatures also help control mold growth, said Funk. "Mold grows best at around 80 degrees, but it's extremely slow below 30 to 40 degrees. Allowable storage time is almost doubled for every 10 degrees that the grain is cooled."
To cool the grain, Funk advised using aeration whenever outdoor temperatures are 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the grain. The time required to cool grain weighing 56 to 60 pounds per bushel can be estimated by dividing 15 by the airflow rate.
"The grain will cool in about 75 hours using an airflow rate of 0.2 cubic feet per minute per bushel," Funk says. "Air takes the path of least resistance, so cooling times will vary in the storage. You should measure grain temperature at several locations to assure that all the grain has been cooled."
For winter storage, grain should be cooled to a temperature of 20 to 30 degrees in northern states, and 30 to 40 in southern states.
Finally, Funk recommends checking stored grain bi-weekly during the critical fall and spring months when outside air temperatures are changing rapidly.
"Monitor your stored grain so that insect infestations or grain spoilage can be detected before serious losses occur," says Funk.