Friday, August 31, 2018

Grain Storage

Adriane Good, MSU Extension Pondera County

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, harvest is rolling right along which means you may be thinking about storing your grain, at least for a short while. Now I’m sure many of you are already experts when it comes to storing your grain, but here’s a few tips for you to consider while you’re driving around in circles in your fields.

The first is to do an economic analysis of the cost and benefits of storing your grain long term. Researchers in Australia have found that producers that do a good job of storing their grain on farm long-term are being rewarded for it. Buyers who have access to insect-free quality grain that’s been stored on-farm are paying premiums for this grain throughout the year. While it can be tough to compare agriculture down under to agriculture in Montana, thinking about the costs and benefits to storing grain on your farm long-term is an important step in making grain storage decisions.

It’s also important to consider the pros and cons of different grain storage methods. Poly bags are a good option for storage if the grain is stored at the recommended moisture levels. However, they don’t do well at keeping insects out of your grain. They’re also not a great barrier from wildlife; wildlife can puncture the bags and allow moisture into your grain causing spoilage. Grain piles can be a very effective short-term solution; however, precipitation is not your friend if this is a strategy you are using. A 1-inch rain can increase the moisture content of 1 foot of grain by 9 percent. A cone-shaped pile that is about 25 feet high contains 59,000 bushels of grain. Losing just 1 foot of grain on the surface is a loss of about 13 percent of the grain, or $58,500 if the grain value is $6 per bushel. Luckily, 1-inch rains don’t seem to be very common around here, but it's still something to keep in mind when making your storage decisions.

Two of the most obvious things you can do is prepare your bins well and store quality grain. When preparing your bins, make sure they are nice and clean and there are no insects present. It also helps to check any under floor areas, as those are great places for bugs to hide in wait of your tasty grain. If you’re planning on storing your grain long-term, make sure it’s a good quality, at the right maturity, and dry enough for long term storage. The drier a grain is, the longer it will be able to store. Below is a chart to help you determine how long you can store your grain.
Courtesy NDSU Extension

Grain needs to breathe while it’s stored so that it doesn’t spoil. Making sure your bins are well aerated will make this happen. Properly distributing fines throughout the bin by using a grain spreader or repetitive coring will help increase aeration.

It’s also important to keep an eye on your stored grain throughout the year to make sure it is still happy. Check your bins about once a month from the top and the side to look for any evidence of spoilage or insects. A sour smell, grain clumped together, condensation present on the inside surface of the bin roof, webbing on the grain surface, or the presence of insect larvae, adult beetles or moths are all indicators of some sort of problem.

Hope those tips provided you something to mull over for a little while. If you have any follow-up comments or questions on this topic, feel free to shoot me an email or call me at the office to discuss.

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