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Pick right storage moisture for grain

Tom J. Bechman grain sitting in grain truck
HOW LOW SHOULD YOU GO? The longer you intend to store this load of grain, the drier you should bin it, experts say. It’s the best way to avoid moldy grain problems in the spring.
Drying grain costs money, but not drying it enough and then holding it for too long can result in major spoilage issues.

Gary Woodruff believes you can prevent most potential grain storage problems before they start. First, pick the right moisture content as your storage target. Second, bin grain properly, using the coring technique to remove fines and ensure good airflow.

“Too many times, grain spoilage leading to clogged unloading augers happens in the spring or summer because the corn wasn’t dried low enough for the storage interval,” Woodruff says. He’s a district sales manager and grain storage specialist for GSI.

“If there’s a chance you will store grain until next summer, then put it in the bin at lower moisture content,” he says. “Overdrying grain costs money, but not drying it enough and then holding it too long can result in major spoilage issues.”

Related: Put grain system in top shape

Woodruff shares more fall binning tips in the following interview:

If you want to store corn for December-January delivery, what moisture level should you seek? In most areas, you can get grain down to 50 degrees F or below quickly just after harvest. Storing at the moisture level your local elevator will not charge dock, 15% or 15.5%, should be good for that date. I’m assuming the grain was reasonably clean, with no heavy fines in the core, and that grain quality was good going into the bin.

What moisture level should you target for February-March delivery? You can’t beat the physical laws of storing corn. They say you need 15% moisture if you store until ambient average temperatures reach 50 degrees F in the spring. That often occurs in May. At moisture levels above that, you’re taking a much greater risk of out-of-condition grain.

If you store for June or later delivery, what can you do? Be at 14% if grain will be stored past May or until next harvest, and 13% to store for a year or longer. At 13% moisture, mold growth is negligible. There is little free water for insects to stay alive. The farther south, the less you can depend on using cool or cold temperatures to make storage more dependable. Typically, going 1% drier than normally recommended can be a very good insurance policy in the south.

How does coring remove fines and prevent grain spoilage? Unless you’re using a long-winged spreader such as GSI’s AgriDry Spreader, you will have more fines in the middle. This prevents aeration air from passing through that portion, leading to hot, out-of-condition grain. Repetitive coring is the only dependable way to reduce fines in the middle of the bin.

Fines can’t be thrown very far. Most accumulate in a roughly 10-foot-diameter center portion of the bin. If at every 10 feet of increased depth at the sidewall you remove enough corn to create a 10-foot-diameter cone, roughly 200 to 300 bushels, you remove a large portion of fines. This significantly improves air movement through the center of the bin and reduces chances for mold and heating.

What you remove can be sold or stored separately. Sell it quickly. Larger bins only change how many times you need to pull grain. It’s lots of work, but each time you core, grain becomes safer. A single coring after the bin is full can be helpful, but it’s not nearly as good as repetitive coring.

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