Keeping Your Grains Cool in the Spring and Summer
15 June 2018
When marketing your grain, storing it properly is important to help you get the right value for your asset. Spring is here with fluctuating temperatures and summer heat will be here before you know it. Big Ag is providing some tips to keep your grain cool and dry while it’s being stored.
1. Prepare the bin.
Before storing your grain make sure you clean out your bins and get rid of any grain left that might have insects in it. Check under floors for insects because they like to hide there and wait for the next season to make an appearance. Clean bins thoroughly, disposing of spilled, cracked, and broken grain and grain flour. A good rule of thumb when cleaning bins and equipment is: If you can tell what was stored or handled last season by looking in the auger, bin or combine, it’s not clean enough to prevent re-contamination of the new crop.
2. Monitor the temperature.
Keeping grain cool is important as outdoor temperatures fluctuate and start to warm in the spring. Temperature sensors can be a helpful tool, just remember that they only measure the temperature of the grain next to the sensor. This is where it’s probably a good idea to also have a temperature cable a few feet from the south wall of the bin. This is a safe way to help monitor the grain as they will detect hot spot in the bin and can alert you to take action to avoid loss of quality and commercial value. Be aware that sometimes increasing temperature may be an indicator of an insect infestation or mold growth. Mold growth and insect infestations occur rapidly at summer temperatures, so stored grain should be checked every two weeks.
3. Improve aeration.
According to Ken Hellevang, agricultural engineer with the North Dakota State University Extension Service, grains should not be warmed using aeration during the spring and summer. Aeration fans should be covered to prevent wind and a natural chimney effect from warming the grain. The wind and natural chimney effect will push warm, moist spring air through the grain. If the wind blows primarily during the daytime, the grain will be warmed to the daily maximum temperature and grain moisture will increase as the grain is warmed. Grains near the top of the bin should be cooled every two to three weeks by operating the aeration fan for a few hours during a cool morning. Properly distributing fines with a grain spreader or practicing repetitive coring can help improve aeration. A grain spreader can be used on bins smaller than 48 feet to spread out fines. This procedure helps so that the grains aren’t all in the center of the bin.
4. Proper ventilation.
To have proper ventilation in your bin, provide an air inlet near the bin roof eave and an outlet near the peak to reduce the hot air in the top of the bin. A ventilation fan to exhaust the hot air is another option. Hot air under the bin roof will heat several feet of grain at the top of the bin to temperatures conducive for insect infestations. Running the aeration fan for a few hours will help to push air up through the cool stored grain and will cool grain at the top. Again, when not using the fan, cover it to prevent additional heating of the grain.
5. Storing grains at the right moisture content.
Check the grain moisture content to assure the grain is dry enough for storage at summer temperatures. Measure the stored grain temperature at several locations near the top surface, along the walls and several feet into the grain. For long-term storage, you will need to dry grain to a lower moisture level. The table below from Purdue Extension shows the maximum moisture content for safe grain storage.
6. Check grain frequently.
In the summertime, be sure to check grain weekly. Climb to the top and, without entering, see if there is a crust or any noticeable smell. An increase in surface moisture is often the first sign of problems. If you notice something not right, run the aeration fans. A grain bin with an appropriately sized aeration fan will have enough airflow to dry a small layer of moisture on top of the bin. Also, watch for insects during the summer. With warmer temperatures, you can go from one to two insects to a massive infestation in a matter of two to three weeks.
Discover more informative articles from Big Ag at Row Crop.