While it would be nice to think the hard work is over once the crop is out of the field and you’ve shut the bin doors, that’s not the case.
“The fall and beyond are shaping up to be the toughest drying and storage challenge in decades,” says Gary Woodruff, conditioning applications manager, GSI. “Many farmers are going to have to get their crop out early or it’s going to be laying on the ground due to stalk issues from the unusual weather. Moisture variations in the same field might vary 20% to 40%, and kernel-to-kernel variation will be much higher than normal.”
Moisture levels that vary kernel by kernel on the front end will present challenges through drying and on the back end when it goes into the bin.
“A farmer really only has control over moisture and grain temperature in the storage process, and for the most part, Mother Nature controls grain temperature,” Woodruff adds. With the conditions most will see this fall, it is important to make sure extra care is taken from grain bin prep through the months of storage and management.
Before the bins start to fill up, there are several key steps to ensure they’re primed for another crop.
“The most important preharvest check I recommend is to make sure the area under the floor is clean and the floor is free of debris for proper air flow,” explains David Berry, southern district sales manager for OPI Systems. “Make sure fans and heaters (if available) are working properly, along with all electrical connections.”
It’s also valuable to know the airflow rate—cubic feet of air per minute (cfm) capacity—for every fan to help decide at what moisture to combine and how long it will take to cool grain, Berry adds. The higher the cfm, the more air flows through the grain, which is critical for higher moistures.
“The ideal cfm for natural air drying or natural air drying with heat is 1 cfm per bushel,” he says. “It’s best the farmer shares the bin specifications with a bin dealer and ask him/her to run an AirPic [bin airflow simulation program] to determine the cfm for the bin to get an idea when the air flow will stall out, leaving high moisture grain on top of lower moisture grain.”
As the crop continues to come out of the field, the moisture content of the grain already in the bin needs to be comparable with the grain coming in, Berry notes. Adding high-moisture grain to low-moisture grain creates problems, such as overdrying the lower depths or if the fans stall out, the higher grain won’t get enough air to dry down, causing hot spots and spoilage.
“While it’s never a good idea to store grain above 15% moisture, don’t try to cheat this year. It will create an absolute disaster,” Woodruff says.
As the grain pours in, top it off at the eve and level it out for optimal air flow. Core the center of the bin to remove foreign matter and make sure the air flows through the center of the bin to prevent spoilage, Berry suggests.
“Once bins are full and down to ambient temperature, run the aeration fans for 10 to 14 days to equalize kernel- to-kernel moisture,” Woodruff adds.
As fall turns to winter then spring and summer, continue to frequently monitor temperature, moisture and insects to maintain maximum postharvest grain quality.