NDSU Extension - Griggs County


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September 28

The Extension Connection

By Megan Vig

Grain markets are promoting on the farm storage this fall, and that may leave producers without enough bins to store the 2018 crop.  This week I share information from Ken Hellevang, NDSU Extension Agricultural Engineer on considerations of alternative grain storage methods.

Grain can be stored in many types of facilities, but all storage options must keep the grain dry and provide adequate aeration to control the grain’s temperature.  Grain must be dry and cool (near the average outdoor temperature) when placed in alternative storage facilities.  This is especially critical for storing soybeans.  Free fatty acid percentages, a negative characteristic, tends to increase with storage moisture, temperature and time.

If you are considering storing grain in buildings, be sure to consider structural issues of the building.  Grain pushing against walls can damage buildings not built for grain storage.  The wall must be anchored securely, and its structural members must be strong enough to transfer the force to the building poles or support structure without breaking or excessive bending.  Typically, you’ll need additional poles and a grain wall to support the grain force in a pole building.  Hire an engineer to complete a structural analysis, or have a contractor follow exactly the building company recommendation to prevent a structural failure.  Before placing grain in a building previously used for grain storage, look for anything out of alignment, such as wall bowing and distortions in the roofline.  Bowing or bending indicates the load on the building exceeded the load for which it was designed and built.  This weakens the structure. 

Storing grain in poly bags is a good option, but it does not prevent insect infestations or mold growth in damp grain.  Place grain in the bag at recommended storage moisture contents based on grain and outdoor temperatures during the potential storage period.  Heating will occur if the grain exceeds a safe storage moisture content and it cannot be aerated to control heating.  Dry grain’s average temperature will follow the average outdoor temperature.   When storing in bags, make sure to select an elevated, well-drained site for the storage bags.  Run the bags north and south so solar heating is similar on both sides.  Sunshine on just one side heats that side, which can lead to moisture accumulation in the grain and spoilage on the cool side.  Monitor the bags for damage.  Wildlife can puncture the bags, allowing moisture in, which can lead to spoilage and the grain smell being released, which attracts more wildlife.  Monitor the grain temperature at several places in the bags.  Lastly, never enter a grain bag because it is a suffocation hazard.  If unloading the bag with a pneumatic grain conveyor, the suction can “shrink wrap” a person. 

Grain frequently is stored short term in outdoor piles.  Precipitation is a severe problem for uncovered grain because grain is very porous.  A 1-inch rain will increase the moisture content of a 1-foot layer of corn by 9 percentage points.  Aeration and wind blowing on the pile will not dry wet grain adequately to prevent spoilage.  Use a cover to prevent water infiltration.  Drainage is critically important in grain storage.  About 25,000 gallons of water will run off an area about 100 by 400 feet during a 1-inch rain.  This water must flow away from the grain and the area next to it.  When determining a location for a pile, examine the entire area to assure that flooding will not occur during heavy rains and soil moisture will also not lead to problems. 

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