Just because your grain is in the bin, doesn't mean you're in the clear. The late and drawn-out harvest of 2009 could be creating multiple problems inside those bins as you carry your grain through the winter. Bill Wilcke, University of Minnesota professor and extension engineer, provides advice on how to increase your grain's shelf-life.
1. Identify the Threats
"The primary cause of grain storage problems is mold (fungal) growth,” Wilcke says.
Mold growth and storage problems are typically caused by grain being too wet or too warm, broken grain, uneven grain temperatures in storage, fines accumulations or grain not being monitored enough.
"Generally, you want to keep stored grain cool and dry,” he says.
By keeping grain cool and dry, you re also reducing the chance of insect infestation, as these insects enjoy similar situations to mold, and some actually feed on mold. "Maintaining conditions that prevent mold growth will go a long ways to preventing stored grain insect problems.”
2. Plan a Monthly Check-Up
Wilcke suggests checking your grain bins at least once a month during the winter, if your grain is dry and in good condition. "Once stored grain is cooled to 30F, not much drying is going to take place, and molds will grow very slowly.”
If you see signs and smells of mold and stored grain insects, you should monitor the bins more frequently, perhaps every week or so, he says.
"Of course just checking grain doesn't prevent mold from growing, but it gives you an early indication that conditions are right for mold growth,” he says.
3. Match the Problems with the Solutions
When checking your grain, Wilcke offers this checklist to look for:
- Visible signs of mold or insects
- Hot spots (grain temperatures that have increased since the last inspection)
- Frost build-up on bin roofs or other equipment
- Musty or sour odors.
If any of these problems are found, Wilcke offers some solutions. "Aeration will cure most of these problems, but a person needs to watch the weather. If it is really cold or really warm when the problem is discovered, another option might be better.”
Crusting: If moisture migration causes crusting, he says, aeration will even out temperatures. But, if the crusting is caused by the grain being too wet, drying might be a better solution.
Musty or Sour Odors: Normally grain that is too wet causes musty or sour odors, which means drying is the best option. But, if the musty or sour odors are coming from an isolated spot, the cause is probably moisture migration. Then, aeration might be the answer, Wilcke says.
Frost Build-Up: Aeration is normally the solution.
"The key is knowing what the problem is and how extensive it is,” Wilcke says. "That will indicate the best strategy for dealing with the problem.”
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