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Hot air at the grain bin? Take action now to preserve grain quality

Jeff Caldwell 07/08/2010 @ 11:00pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Remember that grain you put in the bin a little on the damp side last fall? Now's an important time to keep a close eye on that grain, one specialist says.

The biggest thing to watch right now, says University of Nebraska specialist Tom Dorn, is temperature. If your grain's at or below 15% moisture, warmer grain could indicate conditions are good for the development of mold or other disease that could cause major damage if left unchecked.

"If your bin of corn is at or below 15% moisture, monitor for signs of heating twice a month. To determine the hours needed to push a temperature front through a bin of grain, divide 15 by the airflow in cubic feet per minute per bushel in the bin (cfm/bu)," Dorn says. "If you don't have a temperature probe, test for signs of heating by turning on the aeration fan and leaning into the access hatch or climb into the bin."

If you observe any of the following conditions when you open the bin door, further action should be taken soon, he adds:

-Does the air hitting your face feel warmer than expected?
-Do you detect a musty odor?
-Does condensation form on the inside surface of the bin roof on a cold day?

"If you detect any of these symptoms, continue to run the fan long enough to push a temperature front through the bin. If the bin is equipped with a stirring system, run two or three rounds to break up hot spots and equalize the moisture throughout the grain mass," Dorn says. "If the warning signs are present and the bin is not equipped with a stirring system, pull a load or two out of the bin and monitor the condition of the grain coming out of the auger. If you detect heating, run the aeration fans to cool and dry the grain if air properties allow. Level the grain surface if the remaining grain will be left in place."

But, if your binned corn is above 15% moisture, take a different approach. "The first objective is to warm grain that was cooled in late fall to preserve it during the cold months. Grain should be warmed in stages. Run a warming front through the bin when the outside air temperature is 10 to 12 degrees higher than the grain temperature," Dorn adds.

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