Managing stored grain throughout the winter is an important part of your grain marketing plan for farm profitability. This winter we are already receiving reports of stored grain going out of condition, which can lower the value and be a hazard to those working around the grain facility. At a minimum, stored grain that has gone out of condition can cause health hazards, especially when grain dust contains mold and bacteria. Out of condition grain can also form a crust or stick to the bin walls and if someone enters the bin for any reason an entrapment could occur. For more information on safety when working around grain visit http://go.osu.edu/AFM and listen to episode 41 of the podcast on grain bin safety.
Too many of us know the scare of a close call with grain entrapment but lived to tell the story. Even if it was just in a wagon or a truck while unloading wet grain, the fear is real. Unfortunately, it does not always stop us from entering a bin without the proper safety equipment. To help raise awareness of the dangers of working around stored grain, Champaign County will be showing a screening of the movie SILO on February 6 at 6pm at the Gloria Theater in Urbana. SILO is “inspired by true events, SILO follows a harrowing day in an American farm town. Disaster strikes when teenager Cody Rose is entrapped in a 50-foot-tall grain bin. When the corn turns to quicksand, family, neighbors and first responders must put aside their differences to rescue Cody from drowning in the crop that has sustained their community for generations.” RSVP at https://silourbana.eventbrite.com.
While even grain in good quality can be hazardous, maintaining grain quality can help keep you safe. This year’s grain is presenting increased challenges due to more fines during harvest, warm fall temperatures making it difficult to cool grain properly, and higher moisture grain due to the crop being drought or frost killed. This premature killing of the crop before maturity can cause our moisture tester to read drier than the crop really is. With this in mind, being sure to monitor your bins this winter will be very important. Three keys to managing grain this winter include monitoring bins every two weeks, properly cooling grain, and, if you haven't already done so, coring bins very soon.
When monitoring bins be sure to watch for insect activity or condensation forming on the inside roof of the bin. Monitor the temperature of the grain. Ideal winter stored grain temperature is 35°F, which is obtained through proper cooling. Temperature can be monitored with a long thermometer but there are also cable-monitoring systems that can do a much better job at monitoring entire bin temperatures and catching the hot spots caused by spoilage and insect activity.
The most common area for spoilage is the center because of an increased concentration of fines restricting air movement. During the winter, cooling process bins should be cored to remove 90% of the fines. To properly core a bin, remove the entire peak creating a funnel shape inside. A proper core funnel starts at the bin wall, not part way up the current peak.
Most grain spoilage is a result of storing grain at too warm of temperatures over the winter, so cooling and keeping the grain cool is critical. Over the past two days we have had some excellent weather for cooling stored grain and should have more favorable weather within a few weeks. Look for days with no precipitation when the outside air temperature is 10-15°F cooler than the temperature of the grain. The goal is not to freeze the grain, just cool it to the point that insect activity and mold growth is slowed or stopped (35-40°F). The amount of time it takes to move a cooling front through the bin depends on the cfm/bu of the fan. For most bins, this is between 1 to 4 days but some may take longer. If you know the cfm of your fan for winter cooling use the equation hours=(20/cfm/bu).
While this article barely touches the surface of stored grain management, more information can be found in a recent webinar from Dr. Kenneth Hellevang of North Dakota: https://go.osu.edu/StoredGrain. With the importance of stored grain management we also recently hosted Dr. Kenneth Hellevang on episode 42 of our Agronomy and Farm Management podcast at: http://go.osu.edu/AFM.