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Extending Grain Bin Storage

Lack of railcars, bountiful yields, and on-farm storage capacity based on only holding a single season’s crop may have you scrambling to expand storage. You are not alone. Commercial storage is also tight. 

CoBank Knowledge Exchange (cobank.com) projects that an additional 2.3 billion bushels of additional capacity is needed in the 12 Corn Belt states in the next six years. 

“Yields for corn and soybeans will have the greatest impact on these estimates,” says Dan Kowalski, lead analyst with CoBank. “If actual yields across the region trend 5% above or below our assumed rates, our estimates of additional storage needs would then range from 1.5 to 3.2 billion bushels.”

States hardest hit by the lack of storage include Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

Beyond dealing with the cost, adding storage by erecting bins is a quick-fix solution. Depending on supplies and availability of crews, you can get a bin put up within months. As a general rule, you should have 10% to 25% more room than the crop you plan to store, recommends Scott Becker of Grain Systems, Inc. (GSI). 

Another rule of thumb is to provide 1¼ cubic feet of storage space for each bushel you need to store.

Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge is how to get grain from drying facilities out to new bins if existing conveying equipment (in particular, the grain leg) is sized to only reach existing bins. If funds allow, the most obvious solution is to erect a taller leg to reach out to new bins.

That option may not be possible if additional storage is too far away or too tall to be serviced by a leg. 

A decade ago, a large farm bin held 15,000 bushels. Today, the average bin holds 30,000 to 40,000 bushels. 

“One of the taller bins we’ve erected in the past for a farm was a 48-foot, 18-ring bin with capacity to hold 100,000 bushels,” recalls Scott Segebart of FS New Alliance in Oskaloosa, Iowa. 

2 Other Options

A ready reach-out option is to turn to overhead U-trough conveyors anchored off an existing leg. Available in a wide variety of capacities to accommodate a leg’s output, a 9-inch U-trough, for example, offers capacities ranging from 500 to nearly 4,000 bushels per hour (BPH) depending on its operating speed. Often, a support tower is needed to carry the weight of the conveyor.

Another option for reaching new bins would be a chain loop system. First innovated by Hutchinson Mayrath, chain loop systems have experienced new popularity of late, with additional manufacturers (Sukup and GSI) now offering their versions of the Grain Pump.

A chain loop system consists of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene paddles pulled by a chain through tubing that passes over the top of a bin. The loop is completed, with the tubing running either underneath or to the sides of bins.

With a chain loop design, you can dump grain from a dryer or truck into the system. “It takes grain up and across the tops of the bins,” explains Kent Creighton of Sukup Manufacturing. “You can dump the grain in whichever bin you want. It returns on the back side of the bins and brings grain out if you want to load the truck back out.”

A big advantage to a chain loop system is that it’s one of the few conveying designs that can handle wet and dry corn at the same time. 

“You can bring wet corn from the truck, dump it into the loop, and move it into the first bin (the wet bin),” Creighton says. “You can have a separate unload coming out of that wet bin to feed the dryer. From the back of the dryer, it can take dry grain up to the top of the loop system on top of that second bin and dump the dry grain into the loop to feed the other bins in the system.”

System capacity varies greatly by size. A 6-inch-diameter system has a 2,000-BPH capacity, while a 16-inch-diameter system can move up to 18,000 BPH, Hutchinson Mayrath reports.

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