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Serving: IA

Run Those Fans, Cool Your Grain Now

"The big need right now is to run the fans on your grain bins," says Charles Hurburgh, grain quality expert at Iowa State University. "We have good quality corn being harvested in Iowa this fall, and lots of it was harvested in warm weather. If you have corn in the bin, cool it down now by running those fans."

To prevent spoilage, farmers need to pay careful attention to how they dry, handle and store this year's corn and soybean crops. Hurburgh, who is director of the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative at ISU, offers the following observations and advice to help you keep this year's crop in top shape.

"The erratic rainfall patterns across Iowa this year have affected both yield and quality for corn and soybeans," he says. "Because more corn is likely to be stored for local use through the entire crop year, attention to harvest and storage management details will be very important."

Uneven maturity affects grain quality

"Soybeans were not uniform in maturity this fall, even within the same field, with many instances of dry seed on green stalks. Areas that received late August rains will have fewer small seeds but may still be variable in maturity and moisture. Seed beans from long-term drought areas will be small. Otherwise seed size should be average with a lot of variation."

"Corn quality is also affected by drought, but quality often recovers with August rainfall more than does yield," he says. "Protein and other quality traits are determined early in the growing season. Corn protein should be average (8% and 15% moisture) in most areas. Areas with favorable growing conditions all summer should have lower protein with the high yields, but lower protein means higher starch."

While there were problems with aflatoxin in some parts of Iowa in 2005, the August weather reduced the threat of aflatoxin considerably this year. "In 2005, the heat persisted through early October which was very favorable for mold growth," he says. "The most severe drought in 2006 was in far western and west central Iowa; if aflatoxin is found, this would be the probable area, but the incidence is likely to be scattered and at lower levels."

Can't blend your problems away

"The rapidly growing local ethanol market creates storage challenges. More of the Iowa crop will have to be kept here, within delivery distance of its market," says Hurburgh. "That means having good condition grain available all 12 months of the year. Direct delivery by farmers to ethanol plants, which are inherently quality sensitive, sharply reduces the potential to blend off quality problems."

Ethanol plants want good quality corn. "Thus, an increasing percentage of corn will be used locally at No. 2 grade standards, rather than in the export market at No. 3 grade. The demands for quality maintenance of stored grain will intensify, and the potential for revenue from blending will decrease rapidly," he says.

The complete "Fall 2006 Harvest Quality and Storage" report is available on the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative Web site at  

There are several ISU Extension publications available to help producers with grain handling and storage:
Soybean Seed Storage (PM 1004)
Soybean Drying and Storage (PM 1636)
Corn Ear Rots, Storage Molds, Mycotoxins, and Animal Health (PM 1698)

These are available for order from any ISU Extension county office, online at or by calling the ISU Extension Distribution Center at (515) 294-5247. For more in depth information about grain storage management, the Midwest Plan Service has several handbooks on aeration, drying and grain management. Go to and click on grains/forage/silage.

The Iowa Grain Quality Initiative (IGQI) project developed from interest by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, the Iowa Soybean Association, the Iowa Legislature and Iowa State University Extension in increasing the value of Iowa grain. The mission of the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative is to create knowledge and provide information that will improve the efficiency of traditional commodity grain markets and will assist emerging markets for user-specific grains.

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