Anyone who stores grain knows that insects and molds can be a concern. After all, there is an estimated $3-billion worth of grain during bumper-crop years, which is when storage facilities are stretched to their maximum.
Anyone who's responsible for managing stored grain should take their job as seriously as a banker, says Joe Harner Extension engineer for grain and livestock systems at Kansas State University. He estimates that insects and mold create a loss of 10 cents per bushel nationwide.
There are ways, however, to prevent this type of loss in on-farm and commercial grain storage. Harner provides his top 10 grain storage management tips:
1. Make sure facilities are cleaned inside and outside. Any place an insect can live must be cleaned. Places where physical cleaning is not possible must be cleaned using chemicals.
2. Cool grain as quickly as possible. The recommended temperature of cooled grain is 70 F in warm months and 35 F to 40 F in cool months.
3. Be aware of incoming moisture and remember that aeration fans are not intended to dry grain, but to cool it. High-moisture grain entering storage can create problems.
4. Adjust harvesting and handling equipment to decrease the amount of broken kernels and unwanted material. The more broken kernels, the more surface area exposed for insects to nibble. Equipment, excessive handling or excessively dry grain are three leading causes of broken kernels.
5. Clean grain is important. Weedy material usually has a higher moisture content than grain and may accumulate in isolated pockets. This can interfere with aeration, making areas more difficult to cool.
6. Monitor the temperature, moisture and odor of stored grain with scheduled inspections, which should be done every two weeks once grain and outdoor air temperatures exceed 45 F.
7. Be observant because most problems can be fixed early. While odor is a good indicator of spoilage, moisture may be another sign. Slimy grain and drip spots on the underside of a roof suggest too much moisture.
8. Safety should be first and foremost to everyone working near grain-storage facilities. Use caution and follow all guidelines when using chemicals. For safety reasons, have at least two people present when sampling grain bins.
9. Have a marketing plan and use it to help develop a management strategy to maintain stored grain quality. During warm-weather months it may be necessary to re-warm the grain to prevent moisture migration due to temperature differences within a grain bin.
10. Be prepared to make quick decisions about grain storage problems once they are detected. To prevent further damage of grain that is heating, it should be cooled, turned or marketed as soon as possible.
For more information on grain storage, check http://www.oznet.ksu.edu and search for "grain storage."
Kansas State University