Diplodia. Photo by OSU Extension.

Maintain quality of grain in storage

As harvest is in full swing across the state, and fields of corn and soybeans are disappearing, grain bins are starting to fill up. All of the management decisions that growers made throughout the growing season are being evaluated as yield data is collected and analyzed. Also, growers marketing programs are in full swing trying to maximize the best price per bushel across an entire operation.

One factor affecting profitability is still at jeopardy; that is the quality and marketability of corn and soybeans before they are sold. Grain condition in storage is often overlooked until there is a problem as grain begins to be moved for sale. Grain quality and condition will never improve after it is put into storage, however, it can quickly decline to the point of dockage or rejection at a point of sale. Considering the following points when storing grain can help reduce potential grain quality issues.

First, quality of the grain as it remains standing in the field needs to be considered. This year there are issues with ear rot in corn across the state. Take time to walk fields and examine ears before harvest to assess whether or not a field has problems with ear rot. If ear rot is present, the next step is to determine which type of ear rot is present, as each has different storage and marketability factors to consider before harvest. Most commonly across the state this year is Diplodia ear rot and Fusarium ear rot, however, there have been some reports of Aspergillis ear rot and Gibberella ear rot. More information on ear rot identification and how it affects storage can be found at: http://www.cornmycotoxins.com/home/

Second, preparation of storage facilities before any grain is stored is important. Preparation of storage facilities and handling equipment should include removal of any old grain and foreign matter that may harbor insects or attract rodents. Remove weeds around grain handling and storage facilities. Repair any equipment that may lead to an increase in fines or damaged kernels, as these reduce airflow through the grain mass and increase the risk of spoilage. Finally, clean storage facilities should be treated with an insecticide to reduce the risk of any infestation from insects.

The moisture at which grain is stored is another consideration. Whether grain is left to dry in the field or it’s dried in a drying system, the final moisture content at which grain should be stored depends on the length of time grain will be held before sale and the quality of the grain to be stored. Typically, the longer the grain is stored before it is sold, the lower the moisture must be before it is placed in storage. If grain is in poor quality at harvest, for example if ear rot is present, there is high mechanical damage, or frost damage, then grain should be stored at a lower moisture content to ensure quality does not continue to decline.

Even if grain has been placed in storage at the correct moisture content, improper temperature monitoring and regulation can lead to spoilage. Aeration is used to control grain temperature, so removing restrictions to air movement within the mass of grain will improve aeration and temperature regulation. Using a spreader to evenly distribute grain across the bin and coring bins to remove fines accumulated in the center will enhance airflow and more evenly regulate temperature across the bin.

The final consideration to ensure good quality grain is to simply monitor and check the stored grain condition at regular intervals during storage. During time periods of large temperature swings, often in fall and spring, stored grain should be checked at more frequent intervals. Indications of the grain’s declining quality would be a change in smell at the exhaust fans or at the bin opening, condensation or frost forming on the underside of roof, or crusting of the grain. If the grain is determined to be losing its condition, grain should be removed, dried, and possibly sold before it continues to decline in quality and marketability.

Following these simple steps will help to ensure that the grain you are storing remains in the best quality to get the best price available when sold. Don’t allow your grain to decline in quality and condition. Don’t put your profitability in jeopardy this marketing season after all of the hard work that went into producing it. Finally, always remember to be safe when working in or around stored or flowing grain.

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