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6 Tips to Maintain Quality of Stored Grain
With low commodity prices and big crops this year, storing grain for a longer period of time may be a smart move. However, you can only capitalize on what are hoped to be higher commodity prices if you have protected your grain quality through proper management practices.
Here are 6 tips to make sure the grain you sell is in tip-top shape:
1. Dry grain down to the appropriate moisture content. The recommendation is to dry grain down to 13% if you plan to store it for one year or longer, 14% for a year or less, and 15% for six months.
“Grain held above these moisture thresholds, particularly in larger bins, will experience heating and loss of grade, even if high airflow is available because there won’t be enough air to properly dry the grain,” says Gary Woodruff with GSI. “As a result, it will lose test weight and quality.”
2. Market grain that hasn’t been dried first. When grain is taken straight from the field and stored, even if it’s at 15% or lower, the kernel is still a live seed, which means insects, mold, and fungus are still alive. Proper drying improves storage life by reducing these threats. So if you aren’t drying grain, make sure it’s the first to move out of storage.
3. Use aeration fans to get the grain temperature below 50°F., then down to 40°F. or 30°F., as soon as possible. Nearly all insect and mold activity drops below this temperature.
4. Keep grain cold as long as you are selling it no later than May. For grain held over the summer, heat it up slightly to 50°F.
“Part of the reason for the lower temperature trend the last several years is that insect infestation and mold growth are going to flourish in the 70°F. to 90°F. temperature range,” says Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension engineer. “If you can keep the temperature below 50°F., the insects are dormant.”
5. After harvest, pull the bins with peaked grain down so the center is just below the corn at the wall. From the side the grain will look somewhat like the letter “m”. This promotes air movement in the center.
6. Check the grain frequently. Most experts recommend checking the grain once a week in warmer seasons and every few weeks in the winter.
What happens if you miss a step and some grain goes out of condition? Your only real fix to stop an out-of-condition issue that can’t be stopped by aeration, is to unload the bin down to where the affected grain can be removed, advises Woodruff. This likely means the grain will have to be marketed early and the poor grain quality may receive a dock at the elevator.
“Prevention is the key to dealing with out-of-condition grain,” he says. “That takes management and planning.”