Protecting Stored Grain

By John Wilson

Extension Educator

It seems like when we flip the calendar over to March, we expect some warmer temperatures. But it looks like the weatherman may have put our springlike weather on hold for a week. While warmer temperatures will be a welcome relief, it also will reveal some problems that started last fall, but were postponed by the colder winter weather.

Spring can be a challenge for folks with grain in storage on the farm in a normal year, but the weather last fall during harvest was anything but normal. Poor drying conditions forced many farmers to put grain in storage at unusually high moisture levels. The grain was held over the winter by cooling it to slow losses. But as air temperatures and grain warm, the chance for grain spoilage increase dramatically.

John Wilson

John Wilson

Periods of warm weather will warm grain near the bin walls, particularly on the south and west sides of the bin, while grain on the north side and near the center of the bin remain cooler. This uneven warming will cause moisture movement within the grain and condensation in the cooler parts of the grain mass.

If the temperature of the grain is below freezing, moisture will freeze between the kernels, forming a block of frozen grain. When you aerate the bin, air will move around, rather than through, these areas. When that grain eventually thaws, it creates a moist area in the grain and increases the likelihood of spoilage.

So how do you avoid this problem when you can’t control the weather? Every couple of weeks you should check the grain temperature with a probe thermometer. Check the temperature of the grain around the bin walls and also near the center of the bin. If there is more than a 10 degree difference between any of the readings, turn on the fans to push a temperature front through the grain to equalize the temperature.

As you gradually warm the grain this spring, try to keep the grain temperature within about 10 degrees of the average outside temperature. Whenever you run the fans, use this as a time to monitor grain conditions. Have someone else turn on the fans while you are positioned by a roof vent or opening in the roof.

If that first blast of air coming out the vents is musty, more humid, or warmer than the outside air, this indicates a problem developing in your grain. You need to run the fans continuously to reduce the problem, monitor this bin more frequently, and then use or sell this grain as soon as possible.

One important safety consideration. Before entering a bin, be sure you have a safety harness or rope connected to yourself and have someone outside the bin that can pull you to safety if you should break through a crusted area. Last fall’s less than ideal drying conditions increase the potential for grain bridging and forming air pockets below the surface. If you break through the bridge, it is likely you will not be able to get out on your own.

For more information on managing stored grain, contact your local UNL Extension office.

About katcountryhub
I am a graduate of Northeast Community College with a degree in journalism. I am married to Jeff Gilliland. We have two grown children, Justin and Whitney and four grandchildren, Grayce, Grayhm, Charli and Penelope. I will be covering Lyons, Decatur, Bancroft and Rosalie and am hoping to expand my horizons as time progresses!

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