The father of shelled corn storage systems in Indiana loved to use an example to illustrate why farmers should pay attention to grain in storage. Bruce McKenzie, retired Purdue University Extension ag engineer, said the following about managing grain:
“If you put a bucket at the top of your grain bin with as many $1 bills in it as the total value of the grain inside the bin, how often would you check the bucket to make sure that the dollars are all there? You need to check your grain just as often as you would check the bucket.”
Dan Arnholt, Columbus, believes that’s especially true this year. Most grain went into the bin during very warm weather. And some grain contained more diseased kernels than normal.
Arnholt learned about grain management while working for an electric company that served farmers. Here is the second part of a two-part discussion Indiana Prairie Farmer had with Arnholt about the importance of managing grain properly.
IPF: Once you turn on fans to start another cooling cycle, what do you do if it rains or warms up?
Arnholt: It’s very critical that once a temperature change is started, you continue operating fans until it’s complete. If the fan is stopped early, warm, moist air will condense on cool grain, and a crust will develop at that point. Once the crust develops, air will not go through the layer. Grain will go out of condition.
IPF: How do you know when grain is cooled enough?
Arnholt: Try to keep the grain mass within 10 degrees of the outside temperature until the grain is 35 to 40 degrees F. To check grain temperature, place a thermometer 12 inches deep into the grain at the top of the bin on drying or positive airflow aeration bins. On negative aeration bins, place the thermometer in front of the fan. The reading will be the average grain temperature. Compare this to the average daily temperature. You want the difference to be within 10 degrees.
IPF: At what point do you stop cooling grain for the winter?
Arnholt: Once the grain mass reaches 35 to 40 degrees F, it will be cool enough to stay in condition for the winter. Make sure it stays at this temperature by checking the bin on a regular basis. Aerate if necessary to maintain 35 to 40 degrees.
IPF: How do you know if something is wrong?
Arnholt: Check your bins weekly, from filling until they’re unloaded. If grain temperature starts to rise, immediately start aerating to cool it down. If air doesn’t go through or you can’t cool the grain in the proper amount of time based on fan size, remove the grain and either dry it again or sell it.
IPF: If you had grain quality issues at harvest, is monitoring it in storage more important?
Arnholt: If poor quality grain is in the bin, more attention needs to be given to temperature and condition of the grain. It can go out of condition very quickly if aeration rules aren’t followed. Sell poor-quality grain first.