NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Check Stored Grain

grain storage, grain drying

Submitted by Craig Askim, Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Now is the time to check stored grain thoroughly and take steps to maintain grain quality.

"Search for small changes that are indicators of potential problems," advises Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer. Some grain went into storage at higher than recommended moisture contents, and that increases the likelihood of storage problems."

Check to assure that the grain temperature is at 20 to 30 degrees. The allowable storage time approximately doubles for each 10 degrees that the grain is cooled. Also, insects are dormant below about 50 degrees. Cooling corn below about 20 degrees has no benefit and may increase the potential for condensation on the grain when aerating with warmer air. Aeration is not necessary if the grain is at the appropriate temperature.

Grain warming normally will be limited to a couple of feet near the bin wall and a few feet at the top of the bin. Monitor grain temperature at least in these locations to determine when to operate the aeration fan.  Do not operate the fan during rain, fog or snow to minimize blowing moisture into the bin. Bin vents may frost or ice over if fans are operated when the outdoor air temperature is near or below freezing, which may damage the bin roof. Open or unlatch the fill or access cover during fan operation to serve as a pressure relief valve. Cover the aeration fan when the fan is not operating to prevent pests and moisture from entering the bin.  Many grain moisture meters are not accurate at grain temperatures below about 40 degrees. When the grain is cold, it should be place in a sealed container, such as a plastic bag, and warmed to room temperature before checking the moisture content.  Check the operator’s manual for the meter to determine correct procedures to obtain an accurate value.

Corn at moisture contents exceeding 21 percent and oil sunflowers exceeding 16 percent should be dried in a high-temperature dryer before the end of February to minimize the potential for grain deterioration.

Natural air drying is not efficient until the average outdoor temperature reaches about 40 degrees. The moisture-holding capacity and, therefore the drying capacity, of colder air limits the drying at colder temperatures and is extremely slow and expensive. When natural air drying, adding supplemental heat primarily reduces the final moisture content of the grain and only slightly reduces drying time.

Always remember safety when working around grain bins. Wet stored grain increases grain-handling hazards. Grain suffocation is likely if entering a bin while unloading. Being engulfed in the grain takes only seconds. Never enter a grain bin without stopping the auger and using the "lock-out/tag-out" procedures to secure it. Also, low-level exposure to dust and mold can cause symptoms such as wheezing, a sore throat, nasal or eye irrigation, and congestion.  Certain types of molds can produce mycotoxins, which increase the potential for health hazards from exposure to mold spores.

For more information, do an Internet search for NDSU grain drying and storage.

Source: Ken Hellevang,  kenneth.hellevang@ndsu.edu.

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