Keeping grain in good condition through the winter

While we don’t know exactly what our winter weather will be like, one issue foremost on the minds of grain farmers is that they want to keep their grain in good condition for feeding or sale through the winter months. Dr. Klein E. Ileleji, associate professor and extension engineer at Purdue University, offered some tips along this line in the Oct. 12 issue of Purdue Pest & Crop newsletter at extension.entm.purdue.edu/pestcrop/index.html.

“It appears that the corn and soybean crop had a pretty good field dry-down on average,” said Ileleji. “What is important now is ensuring that the crop is dried to safe moisture and cooled down appropriately so that it remains in good condition until prices are favorable enough to sell.”

Ileleji listed safe storage moisture levels for various crops. The maximum moisture content for a winter storage period of up to six months for corn is 15 percent, and 13 percent for soybeans.

“Reduce safe storage moisture content by 1 percent for poor quality grain,” he said.

Recommended safe storage moisture percentages also go lower with longer expected storage periods.

Ileleji stressed the importance of having clean bins before storage begins. “First of all, make sure your bins have been cleaned out thoroughly of old grain and foreign material.” he said. “Applying an empty bin treatment on the bin wall and floor to control for insect pests is a good precautionary measure to implement.”

A list of grain protectants approved for stored grain in Indiana can be found in the Purdue Extension bulletin entitled “Stored Product Pests,” E-66-W. Search for it at the Purdue Education Store, mdc.itap.purdue.edu.

Second, Ileleji said the initial grain quality and moisture content dictates how long grain should be held in storage. “Harvesting timely and drying adequately to safe moisture content are two key decisions that could affect how well you will be able to manage your grain in storage,” he said. “Unfortunately, the late replanting of some fields mean some of the harvest will be done late into the fall.”

In rainy weather, Ileleji said to check to see whether binned dry grain is not getting rewetted from rain drifts coming in through vents or open manholes. Provide adequate ventilation to the head space above the grain to control condensation and prevent high humidity environment favorable to mold growth using roof exhaust fans. Also check bins for rain drifts or water leakage, especially after a heavy rain event, he said.

“The last point I would like to make is cool stored grain adequately upon drying and after binning,” he said. “Cooling grains to low winter temperatures as fast as possible will retard all biological activities that are detrimental to stored grain quality.”

Cooling stored grain to at least 40 degrees by December, weather permitting, should be your goal, he said.

Finally, Ileleji encouraged farmers to be safe when working around grain bins.

“Remember, a grain bin is a confined space and poses a hazard to personnel working inside it,” he said. “Follow recommended guidelines for safely working in grain bins; never work alone.” he added, “Make sure you discuss the dangers and precautionary measures taken while working around grain bins to your family and all your staff.”

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John Woodmansee is an extension educator in Whitley and Noble counties.

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