Moldy corn: a big topic of discussion for farmers

Richard Strochine, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, said that if farmers try to operate like they normally do during harvest this year, it could cause some major problems during the storage of this year’s crop.

“I had one elevator manager tell me he hasn’t seen anything like this since 1974,” Stroshine said. “Farmers are going to have to take extra precautions in storing and drying down their grain this year.”

Questions about moldy corn and reports of damage are coming into the university from all across the state. Stroshine said he talked with one farmer who estimated 15 percent of the kernels in his harvested corn were damaged by mold.

Farmers who have moldy corn should remove as much of the fine material or broken pieces of corn as possible, dry the grain down to 14 to 14.5 percent moisture, and realize it’s not going to store as well as it has in previous years.

If fines aren’t removed from the corn crop, they will impede airflow and promote the growth of mold within the grain bin.

“Mold can more easily be grown on broken kernels because this is the food source for the fungi and it is more readily available,” he said. “They also impede airflow during aeration of stored corn. So, getting rid of the fine material is a good strategy for improving grain storage, especially this year.”

From a grain drying and handling standpoint, farmers need to recognize that corn harvested with a high moisture content will have more kernel damage; thus making it more susceptible to mold damage during storage.

There is a certain shelf life or storage time for grain and putting it into a bin after it’s been kept at a high moisture content, even for a few days, reduces its shelf life.

For example, a farmer decides to harvest the field and get it out of the weather to stop mold growth as soon as possible. The farmer has a lot of wet corn waiting for several days to be dried and during this time while the corn is still wet, it loses its shelf life on the other end. The grain will be more susceptible to molding if it’s stressed later on.

Stroshine recommends drying corn to below 15 percent moisture as soon as possible to help prevent any further mold issues.

More information about grain handling and storage is available online at www.grainquality.org.

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