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Properly manage harvested grain to maximize profits
 
A call you hope to never make is to a company who wants damaged grain. If you have to hear a company representative give promises of coming with vacs and trucks to remove the grain from your bin while paying top dollar, you have likely been victimized by poor grain management.

Much of this year’s corn harvest was delivered directly to grain terminals or end users such as ethanol plants and livestock feeders. Caring for grain stored on the farm should now be a high priority for corn producers. In today’s market, saying “Corn in the tank is like money in the bank”, is easy to understand.  
Various university Extension recommendations over the past several months have emphasized the importance of drying this year’s corn crop quickly. Weather stresses compromised corn grain in some areas and fields more than others. Since potential quality concerns surfaced in late summer, numerous advisories were published, suggesting that rapid dry down to a 13 percent moisture level would reduce the likelihood of mold growth in grain. In particular, alflatoxin was found in some grain samples, prompting plant pathologists and grain quality specialists to increase awareness of proper grain management.

Lets assume that everyone heeded the call to put grain into clean, sanitized bins, and that fines were removed prior to binning and that grain was evenly distributed as the bin was filled. To minimize the potential for mold growth, stored grain should be cooled to around 30 degrees Farenheit, give or take five degrees. As grain cools down from either heated drier air or outside air on warmer days, moisture exits corn kernels as air moves up through the bin. Cooler morning temperatures contributes to moisture condensation under bin roofs, providing an easy way to monitor if grain is still drying down.  

Most experts agree that checking grain bins regularly is a critical management tool to maintain quality until grain is marketed or fed to livestock. Again, even if grain was handled properly through dry down, taking time to monitor stored corn protects your investment. Essentially, you need to schedule timely visits to bins to help moderate stored grain reaction to the extremes of Mother Nature.  
Moisture migration occurs even in dry grain, as significant temperature differences develop within the grain mass. As seasonal weather cools, the grain along the bin wall and at the top and bottom of the bin tends to cool to near the average outside temperatures. Air currents develop, bringing cooler, heavier air down along bin sides, moves along the floor to the center area of the bin, then slowly rises through the warmer center grain mass. Since warmer air can hold more moisture, it absorbs moisture from the grain as it rises. When the now warmer, moister air nears the top of the bin, cooler conditions cause condensation. The result: increased mold and insect growth and crusting if left unattended.
Proper aeration can moderate the effects of this moisture movement, but monitoring the condition of the grain is necessary to time fan operation.  Climbing the bin ladder or stairs every week or so to check grain condition for moisture and molds is cheap insurance to protect the quality of your stored corn. Briefly turning on the fan to provide a quick smell test for molds may improve the monitoring procedure. Of course automatic monitoring sensors on larger bins can simplify the procedure. 

Most importantly, be safe when monitoring grain quality. Follow all safety precautions.

Please understand, this column was not meant to denigrate the services provided by those who are capable of purchasing grain that has gone out of condition. Such companies provide a last resort option to sell spoiled grain.

However, maximize your profits by properly managing grain from harvest, through the storage period and onto the buyers of high quality grain.

Readers with questions or comments for Roger Bender may write to him in care of this publication.
11/29/2012