It's mid-winter grain bin checkup time

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    The weather's going to be mild this week in much of the nation's midsection. That makes it a good time to check your grain in storage to make sure it's in as good of shape as it was when you put it in the bin last fall. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you conduct your mid-winter grain checkup.

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    First, check your moisture levels. A warm snap like this is a good time to make sure your grain's dry enough to stay in good shape, says University of Nebraska Extension specialist Tom Dorn. "If you didn’t get your grain as dry as you wanted last fall and the forecast calls for a warm spell with low humidity, you may want to take advantage of the good weather and turn on the aeration fan to do more drying," he says.

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    If the temperature is lower than the relative humidity, you may add more moisture to your grain in your effort to dry it down. "When the grain temperature is lower than the dew point temperature, air will condense moisture onto the grain," Dorn says. "If the grain temperature is below freezing, the condensation can be in the form of frost, which could add moisture to the grain and impede airflow through the grain."

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    If you've had snow on and around your bins, you could contribute to moisture problems. "The danger is that the snow will melt and create a wet spot in the grain which could lead to spoilage and insect activity when warmer temperatures return in the spring," Dorn says. "Open the access hatch, then start the aeration fan."

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    What's that air feel and smell like? If the air is warm, smells strong or you feel moisture or notice condensation on the underside of the bin roof, they're signs of trouble. "If any of these three conditions occur, the fan(s) should run long enough to bring the entire grain mass to a uniformly cool temperature inside the bin," Dorn says.

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    "The best way to tell if the grain temperature is uniform is to use a grain thermometer that can be pushed 3 or 4 feet into the grain. Take the temperature every 15 to 20 feet around the perimeter of the bin," Dorn says. "If 2 spots differ by more than about 8 degrees, turn on the aeration fan and push air through the bin until a uniform temperature is reached."

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    Forty degrees is a critical temperature for your corn in storage. "If you didn’t get the grain down to a safe storage moisture in the fall and the grain was cooled to 30°F for safe keeping in winter, it will need to be warmed in stages to 40° in late February or early March," Dorn says. "If you warmed the grain to do some additional drying but now the forecast is for unfavorable weather conditions, run the aeration fans."

With a mild week ahead, now's a good time to make sure your stored grain is in good shape.

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