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Gear up your grain storage
It's been a "long, stinking hot, droughty summer," and projected yields reflect those conditions. That makes it more important than ever to get your crop stored in good shape. "Protecting every bushel that gets harvested should also be high on everyone's priority list," says Ohio State University Extension ag specialist Curtis Young.
Clean all harvest & storage equipment to avoid carryover of mold and disease from last year's crop. "Remove all traces of old grain from combines, combine heads, truck beds, grain carts, augers, lift buckets, grain pits, grain driers, bins and any other equipment used for harvesting, transporting, and handling grain," Young says.
When grain is broken or otherwise damaged, it's extra susceptible to harboring mold and disease. Get on top of your combine adjustments first. "Adjust combines according to the manufacturer's specifications to minimize grain damage and to maximize removal of fines and other foreign material, move grains as little as possible, and limit the number of times and heights from which grains are dropped to reduce breakage," Young says.
Before you start to bin corn you've just harvested, make sure you get all of last year's crop out. Never store newly harvested grain on top of last year's; if there's any disease or mold present in the older grain, it will be easy to infect the new grain. "Even small amounts of moldy and/or insect-infested grain left in equipment can contaminate a bin of new grain," Young says.
Make sure you take extra care to remove old grain and dust from inside your bins, paying extra attention to cracks, crevices and door ledges. Then, make sure the ventilation structures and the area around the bin's exterior are free of debris. "Remove any spilled grain from around the outside of the bin and storage facility," Young says.
Once everything's all cleaned up, check for weak spots and damage. "Once storage structures have been thoroughly cleaned, carefully inspect them for signs of deterioration, especially for leaks and holes through which insects, birds or rodents can gain easy access to the stored grain or rain and snow can drip or blow in onto the grain to produce wet spots that can lead to mold growth," Young says.
While you're inspecting the structural integrity of your bin, look over the mechanical parts too, including belts, bearings, gear boxes and electrical systems. For the latter, make sure all insulation is intact, as it's a common spot for pests like mice. "Seal all leaks and make repairs to the equipment before you need them to manage the grain," Young says.
Especially if your bin site has a history of insect problems, consider putting down an insecticide application, both inside bins and on surrounding land. Just make sure you do it at least 24 hours before adding grain to the bin, and make sure you're using a registered insecticide that takes care of the specific bugs you think you could face, Young says.
And, stay safe out there! "Review your safety procedures for working with flowing grain, grain harvesting and handling equipment, and personal protection," Young says. "Anyone who works around the bins and grain handling equipment should know where to find shut-off switches, fire extinguishers, and emergency phone numbers."
Here are a few tips to get your grain bins ready to fill with this fall's crop.