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Tips to protect stored grain in the summer

As outdoor temperatures are starting to rise this summer, protecting grain from pests and spoilage is essential. 

Here are some tips for monitoring your grain bins and helping your grain stay cool all summer long. 

Keep the right temperature

Raising the grain’s temperature as the weather outside starts to get warmer can help prevent condensation from forming inside the bin, says Greg Trame, director of technology sales for GSI. It’s ideal to keep the temperatures inside the bin as close to outside as possible, but the temperature differential should be no more than 10 degrees. 

Optimal storage conditions also depend on moisture levels. To help make this determination, safety charts are available from local university Extension services. 

Automated bin monitoring tools can help farmers notice temperature or moisture issues before they become serious issues to grain quality.

Check your grain safely

During critical periods of temperature fluctuation, it’s important to closely monitor your grain by checking on it at least once a week. 

Spoiled grain is often connected to grain entrapments and fatalities, according to the Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach. Before entering any grain bin, be sure to follow normal safety precautions such as using a safety harness, working with a partner, and turning off any unloading equipment.

“If you see or smell something you don’t like, it’s important to get aeration fans going to let in fresh air and equalize the bin and outdoor temperatures,” says Trame.

Additionally, be sure to protect your lungs with respiratory protection like an N95 mask. Breathing in small particles that are common around dusty and moldy grain can cause many types of lung issues. 

What to look out for

When checking grain, ISU recommends turning on the aeration fan and checking the first flush of air that comes out of the bin. A musty smell indicates early stages of mold activity. A more sour smell can indicate a serious problem. 

Crusting at the top of the bin, or damp and warm spots can also be indicative of grain spoilage. When this occurs, do not enter the bin. Instead attempt to work on the grain from above by poking or prodding at it. 

A handheld carbon dioxide monitor can give earlier and more accurate indications of quality problems. When carbon dioxide levels are above 600 ppm, use cool air aeration to reduce temperatures. When carbon dioxide levels are above 1,500 ppm, the grain must be quickly removed from the bin.

Remove spoiled grain

If grain crusting is present, blending it off may solve the issue. “However, it’s hard to know how far down the problem goes,” says Trame. “If you can’t get it under control, it’s important to move that grain out of the bin and market it as quickly as possible, even though it may receive a docking at sale.” 

The bigger problem is leaving spoiled grain in the bin, he says, which can cause clogging during unloading, and lead to potentially unsafe events.

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