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Prepping bins for prime time

07/06/2012 @ 11:10am

If you've ever failed to double-check a grain spreader mounting when tending to preharvest chores, you know what can happen. A suspension chain can come loose, and the spreader will operate in a lopsided manner not only not spreading grain but also eventually disintegrating spewing parts across the bin, which quickly became buried in grain.

To help you prepare your storage bins for harvest, here are seven duties to add to your list of must-do chores.

1. Clean empty bins. This chore is essential, but it is often overlooked. And for good reason. It's a summer job nobody wants to do. But the invitation for insect infestation from lack of cleanliness is too great to bypass this task. Beyond removing old grain, also clean and sanitize aeration ducts, augers, and other places insects could feed on dust and fine material, says Keith Jarvi of the University of Nebraska. “It is generally impossible to thoroughly clean underneath perforated drying floors,” he says. “But by removing the drying fan and using a grain vacuum, much of the accumulated debris can be removed. The bin should then be fumigated with chloropicrin to guard against future infestations under drying floors.”

Other false floor fumigants for use on empty bins include magnesium phosphide and methyl bromide. Such fumigants are dangerous. It is highly recommended that fumigation be done by a commercial pesticide applicator, says Tom Dorn, who is also with the University of Nebraska. Other residual treatments are silicon dioxide (also known as diatomaceous earth), butylcarityl plus pyrethrins, and related chemicals such as bifenthrin (Capture) and pybuthryn (Butacide, Pyrenone Crop Spray).

2. Service and then operate bin fans. “A bin of 19% moisture corn with a starting temperature of 75°F. can lose a full market grade in about five days if the aeration system shuts down, allowing the grain to heat and deteriorate,” says Dirk Maier of Kansas State University. The chore list here includes inspecting burners, fan housings, fan blades, belts, guards, bearings, and electrical controls and switches.

3. Inspect dryers and then operate them prior to use. While you're at it, be sure to calibrate your grain moisture meter in order to avoid overdrying or underdrying grain. Finish the job with a thorough cleaning, particularly of stand-alone dryers. This chore is often ignored, says Ken Hellevang of North Dakota State University. Introducing insect infestation into the bin from grain left in the dryer is one concern. But a dirty dryer is also less energy efficient and runs slower.

4. Install a monitoring system in every bin. Such systems employ moisture and temperature sensors suspended from bin roofs. A 50,000-bushel bin, for example, may have four or six cables that stretch from the ceiling to 6 inches above the floor, with about eight sensors spaced evenly along each cable.

Data from the sensors is sent to a remote terminal unit (RTU) on top of the bin. The RTU transmits readings by a wireless transmitter to a desktop computer located in the scale house or nearby office. A weather station monitors ambient air temperature and relative humidity. Installed near the bin, it transmits data to the computer for use in deciding when aeration fans are automatically turned on. The computer analyzes all data and uses preset moisture and temperature target goals for each bin.

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