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6 tips for binning lower quality corn

Jeff Caldwell 09/11/2013 @ 8:37am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

It's a drought-shortened mess in a lot of cornfields out there. That's not stopping farmers from getting into the field in a lot of areas around the country, some ahead of when they thought they might. They're working to get the grain out before conditions deteriorate much further and to try to capture some new-crop basis opportunities.

"It's still plenty wet, and we are taking corn up to 28% on a half-rate moisture scale, so we expect to see an increasing amount of harvest activity through the week," Cargill senior grain merchandiser in Eddyville, Iowa, Ray Jenkins said earlier this week.

Jenkins sees harvest activity picking up rapidly in his area and others in the next week, especially considering how rapidly the recent heat and dryness has advanced the crop, albeit under far-from-ideal conditions. That means there will be a lot of grain flowing into the bins, possibly before it's reached full maturity, and that means, ironically, that high grain moisture levels may be a bigger issue than normal, says DuPont Pioneer sales and marketing public relations manager Jerry Harrington.

"When corn reaches maturity late in the season, field drydown is slower due to cooler air temperatures," Harrington says. "Properly drying this year's very wet, lower quality corn will be essential to avoid further quality reductions."

He offers the following tips to preserve grain quality in this year's crop:

  1. Use a rotary or gravity screen or perforated auger housing section to screen lower quality grain before drying it. "This will prevent foreign material and broken kernel fragments (or fines) from blocking airflow essential to uniform grain drying and storage," Harrington says.

  2. Dry lower quality grain lower than normal. The usual drying recommendation is 14% or 15%. But with grain that is more prone to kernel damage and broken cobs, Harrington says, mold can be a bigger problem. Drying it more helps keep this problem at bay.

  3. Dry at a lower temperature. Higher-temperature drying can cause stress cracks and more kernel breakage, Harrington says. "The amount of stress cracking depends on initial grain moisture, rate of moisture removal, maximum grain temperature reached in the dryer, and rate of grain cooling," he adds. "Therefore, drying temperatures need to be limited on corn to 25% to 30% moisture content (or higher)."

  4. Screen-clean lower quality grain before binning it. This will remove a lot of the fines, cob remnants, and broken kernels.

  5. After you've binned that corn, core it. You'll lose 10% of your bin capacity, Harrington says, but it will "eliminate broken kernels and fines that accumulate in the center," he adds. "Next, level the grain in the bin to minimize moisture accumulation at the top of the grain."

  6. Keep the grain cool. "Cool grain as soon as it's dry to within 10 degrees of air temperature, and continue to aerate for 10 to 14 days to ensure grain moisture equilibrium has been achieved," Harrington says.

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