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grain storage facility
CHECK INSIDE: This bin looks fine on the outside, but what does it look like inside? It’s critical to monitor grain quality from now until it’s sold, GSI’s Gary Woodruff says.

Grain storage expert predicts tough year

If you aren’t checking your corn in storage regularly, today would be a good day to start.

Many farmers have bins full of corn. Gary Woodruff says that grain should be checked early and often. Unlike money in the bank, this investment can deteriorate quickly.

Woodruff is district manager for GSI in Indiana. Unless you put corn into the bin at moisture levels matched for storage intentions, you could already have quality issues brewing.

Here’s Farm Progress’ exclusive interview with Woodruff:

Why are you concerned about keeping corn this year? A lot of corn was harvested early, when it was still very warm. It was 90 degrees F outside in September and 85 or higher in early October. Normally it’s 60 degrees when you’re harvesting corn. Grain temperature is one of the two factors which determines how long corn will keep without issues. The other is moisture content. The higher the temperature of the grain and the higher the moisture content, the lower the storage life.

What do you mean by “storage life”? This is generally considered how long you can store corn before it loses one marketing grade in quality and 0.5% in dry matter. In other words, how long can you hold it before it goes from No. 2 corn to No. 3 corn? The decline in quality is usually caused by disease organisms or insects. The warmer and wetter the grain in storage, the more active disease organisms and insects can be.

If someone binned corn at 16%, turned on fans and let them run, will grain be OK? No. That’s part of the issue. If fans run when it’s warmer than normal, they bring in warm air. They’re doing nothing to cool the grain mass. To cool grain in the bin, run fans only when outside air temperature is cooler than the grain. You could do that with an aeration controller, which will only let fans run when that will occur. Or you could do it manually, running fans at night during warm stretches. Temperatures are usually cooler at night, even when it’s warmer during the day. These are the exact bins which could already be in trouble by early December. The difference between binning at 80 degrees and 60 degrees is three times the number of storage days before a grade loss occurs.      

What can we do if we have corn that was binned early at more than 15% moisture? Check condition of the corn immediately. If it’s still OK, monitor those bins like a hawk. Generally, corn needs to go into the bin at 15% if you want to store until June 1, 14% if you’re storing through next summer and 13% if you may go beyond a year. And those are maximum values.

What if someone already sees problems in grain? Then they likely need to sell that corn now. They may not want to, but it may be their only option. Otherwise, quality will continue deteriorating.

What if an elevator is lenient on dock? Can you hold grain longer? What many farmers don’t realize is that by the time they see moldy corn, they’ve already lost dry matter, which means they’ve lost weight and have fewer bushels to sell. If you suspect any problems, your best bet to maximize revenue is selling as soon as possible.

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