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Corn storage problems for Louisiana?

It could be a “harvest and wait” situation if Louisiana farmers growing corn don’t have enough storage capability. Those farmers will have to truck their harvest to local bins for storage or use temporary measures, said David Lanclos, a corn specialist for the LSU AgCenter.

“There is going to be a bottleneck because the infrastructure isn’t there,” Lanclos said.

Lanclos cited recently released statistics that Louisiana farmers planted corn on 750,000 acres, more than double the amount planted in 2006. The increase in corn prices, as high as $4 a bushel, is chiefly due to the commodity’s use in ethanol production, prompting farmers to reduce on the amount of cotton planted.

“Trucks may face long lines at grain elevators, and offloading could be a problem as well,” said Myrl Sistrunk, West Carroll Parish Extension agent for the LSU AgCenter. How much corn will need to be stored in temporary facilities depends on how fast barges will move on the Mississippi River, Sistrunk said.

One elevator operator gave Sistrunk a scenario that based on every three 18-wheeler truckloads from current customers, using a 100-bushel yield for simpler math, two truckloads have to move out to the barges to avoid storage being further stretched. The figures are based on the current space the elevators have allocated to corn storage, said Sistrunk. They also will be handling other crops, including rice, grain sorghum and soybeans.

If the river gets low, that is another problem. “Right now the Mississippi is up,” Sistrunk said. Northeast Louisiana, which produces 70 percent of the state’s corn, is fortunate because the largest corn-producing parishes border the Mississippi.

Even though some of the crop has been reduced due to a drought in northeast Louisiana, yields look good, according to Sistrunk. “There is probably half enough of the storage that is needed. At the end of the season, storage will be at full capacity.”

Grain quality cannot improve in storage; it can only diminish. For that reason, good initial grain quality is necessary, Sistrunk said.

The LSU AgCenter hosted a workshop on drying and storage of corn at the West Carroll Parish Extension Office, where Sistrunk is county agent, in June. Speaker Ron Noyes, professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University, presented such alternative storage ideas as piling grain outdoors by creating temporary bunkers with large hay bales and a silage bagging system.

Sanitation of piles and grain bags requires more monitoring because of the elements, possible pests and less physical security, Sistrunk said. Conventional bins are rainproof, vented and pest-resistant.

Sistrunk said warehouses and parking lots and proper tarps could be used in the short term to store corn, but not for more than two to three weeks.

Proper drying of corn is important to minimize broken kernels and stress cracks that lead to eventual breaking, said Sistrunk. Lack of air movement can cause mold, he said.

Grain in temporary structures can be aerated with fans, supply tubes and perforated ducts, said Sistrunk. Monitoring is essential, he said.

There is not a tremendous amount of experience in temporary storage in Louisiana, said Lanclos. “It’s going to be a pain, but we’ll get through it.”

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