Watch stored grain to prevent little problems from becoming big ones
ST. PAUL -- This spring could be a critical time to monitor stored grain -- especially higher moisture grain.
Some people are worried about possible freezing, thawing and refreezing of grain, resulting in hard-to-handle chunks. But keeping the grain just about the freezing point of water should prevent this from happening. If the grain is below freezing now, running aeration fans when the outdoor air is just above freezing should reduce problems.
University of Minnesota Extension recommendations are based on research done here and at other land-grant universities. Following these recommendations will help farmers and other grain handlers in the upper Midwest improve profitability and safety.
When you're warming grain, condensation will occur just ahead of the warming. If the fan is shut off prematurely, the condensed moisture could freeze. Leaving the fans on until the warming front has passed all the way through the bin can help avoid this problem.
The University of Minnesota's WINFANS software program can be used to help estimate airflow and answer other questions. It's available on Extension's Web site at www.extension.umn.edu/lateharvest/index.html#storage.
While winter is still with us, aerate grain as needed to maintain storage temperature. Fans can usually be shut off between aeration cycles. Once stored grain has cooled to 30 degrees, there's not much drying taking place; molds will grow slowly. But still check grain regularly -- depending on its condition -- for signs and smells of mold and stored-grain insects.
When spring comes, grain cooled below 30 degrees must be warmed to prevent problems with condensation or frosting of equipment during summer. (You may not need to warm grain if it wasn't cooled below 30 degrees). During grain warming, fans must be left on until warming is complete. Grain must be dry before warm weather comes.
Work safely around stored grain. Use good respiratory equipment around dusty/moldy grain. Stay out of flowing grain, watch for bridged grain and use fall protection when climbing bins or rail cars. If stored grain becomes infested with insects, fumigating to reduce insect populations is one option. Remember, fumigants are potentially dangerous chemicals.
The University of Minnesota Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering has more information on grain storage on its Post-Harvest Handling of Crops Web site at www.bbe.umn.edu/Post-Harvest_Handling_of_Crops. There is also helpful information on Extension's Late Harvest Web site at www.extension.umn.edu/LateHarvest.
Questions are taken through Extension's Farm Information Line at 1-800-232-9077, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Voice-mail and e-mail questions are answered the next business day and the service is free.
Bill Wilcke is an agricultural engineer with University of Minnesota Extension.