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Expert: On-farm stored grain needs monitoring

By Staff | Jun 9, 2017

It is recommended that stored grain be monitored for any changes in temperature at least once a week.



Concern for grain storage into the summer months isn’t necessarily if the temperature is rising outside, but more what is happening to the temperature in the bin.

That’s according to agricultural and biosystems engineering professor and Iowa Grain Quality Initiative professor Charles Hurburgh.

“Grain temperature will not necessarily go up just because it’s warm outside,” he said.

In order to keep your grain in top storage conditions, Hurburgh said the grain needs to be kept as cold as it can for as long as possible.

“Producers need to be judiciously aerating on those days with low dew points,” he said. “Run the fans over nights to re-charge the temperatures down into the 40s.”

Hurburgh said he already has concerns for grain that is still being stored on the farm.

“Last fall’s weather conditions were not conducive for grain storage,” he said. “There was reasonably warm weather and we have probably used up a lot of the shelf life of the corn that we usually would have by now.”

It was the high dew points that hung on last fall through November, that has Hurburgh concerned.

“We probably didn’t get a lot of grain cold until later in the fall and subsequently, going into spring and now summer, the likelihood of getting moldy corn is higher,” he said. “I think this summer will be a little hard for grain storage. We could see a lot of blue eye mold.”

This particular mold, he said, shows up as a blue line right down the middle of the kernel.

Although there isn’t much concern with feeding this particular type of moldy corn, Hurburgh said it should not be sent to an ethanol plant.

“This will bother ethanol plants for sure,” he said. “Fungus doesn’t get along with yeast. Ethanol plants have a difficulty managing bad corn because that fermentation process

doesn’t like fungus.”

Hurburgh advises producers to check the temperatures of their stored corn regularly.

“A producer should be monitoring their storage at least once a week,” he said. “Take the temperature and record it. If it starts going up in the middle of the bin, that’s a problem. That is definitely a sign somewhere there is an issue.”

For smaller grain bins, Hurburgh recommends probing the grain bin with a thermometer placed on the end of a long rod to be able to probe six to eight feet inside of the bin, two to three times, to get a reasonable representation of the temperature throughout the bin.

With larger bins, Hurburgh said that particular method will not work.

“With those bigger bins, there is manually no way to get a temperature reading, you need an electronic temperature measuring system in those cases,” he said. “Those are the best investment you can make, having that installed in new bins.”

Hurburgh said he hopes there isn’t high moisture corn being stored in bins at this point.

“It is too late to have wet corn in the bin,” he said. “It is not a good idea to be storing wet corn at this time.”

If a producer is storing corn above that 15-percent moisture level, and they are seeing condensation on the roof, Hurburgh said hopefully the bin is equipped with a roof ventilation system.

Many times, he said these systems can take out the condensation without warming up the corn.

Because corn is going to be needed to be stored well into next year, Hurburgh said we need to ensure what is in storage is of high quality.

“A lot of this corn is going to have to be stored into 2018 and beyond so we just as soon clear out as much problem corn that has lost its shelf life and clear it out of the system,” he said. “Buyers will be able to afford to be picky, especially within the ethanol industry.”


Soybeans that are in storage could be in better condition than corn, at least for now.

“We had a pretty good fall for soybeans,” said Hurburgh. “They respond pretty quickly to air movement if they need it, but they can get overly dry in those cases and could lose some weight.”

Hurburgh added that it is relatively easy to keep soybeans in good condition while in storage, however, if they start to go bad there is no remedy.

“Once there is an oil rancidity issue then it is time to sell and get rid of them,” he said.

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