The reduction of markets for grain (i.e., ethanol, exports) has caused lower prices, and many farmers are still holding grain on the farm. Keeping this grain in good condition this spring and summer can be difficult. Some rules for safe storage need to be followed.

Be sure the grain you intend to store is good quality and clean - free of fines and foreign material. Allowable storage time is important. The grain must be dry and cooled for storage to allow for the extended storage time.

If the kernel temperature has not been below freezing, there probably is not much need to warm it in the spring if the bins are unloaded by June. However, if grain has been cooled to 25 degrees or below, warming in the spring is recommended to prevent problems with condensation on the grain, and frosting up equipment during the summertime. It is best to do that process very early, when outside temperatures are cool so we’re not introducing very warm and humid air into super cold grain, which can cause frost or ice formation within the grain mass. Keep in mind that warming will cause small amounts of condensation that will be re-evaporated, and we want to make sure the warming is complete before fans are turned off.

To manage grain in late spring and summer, the grain must be dry (for corn, 13% to 14%, and soybeans around 11% to 12%. Even in dry grain, it’s important to watch for stored grain insects if the temperature gets too high. If the grain is held into July and August, aerating the grain will be necessary. If at all possible, avoid warming the grain above 50 degrees. Insect activity will increase above that temperature, as well as an increase in molds.

Therefore, when outdoor air temperatures are very warm (above 50 degrees), avoid running aeration fans on a routine basis. Covering fan inlets will help prevent warm, moist air from flowing naturally up through the fans and in through the bin.

In spring and summer, grain should be checked every week because as warmer temperatures develop, spoilage problems can occur much more quickly. Check the grain surface for any crusting, or warm or moist grain. Probe the grain and check for warm spots. That is difficult to do on very large bins, so we may need to rely on temperature monitoring systems.

Be very careful whenever entering grain bins, especially if any grain has been removed from the bin, or if there is any bridging of grain. Be sure and monitor grain removal, or if the grain bin has been filled. Make sure the surface looks right. If grain has been removed, we should see the column of grain that has been taken out. If there is no evidence of that, there could be bridging that has occurred that could collapse and rapidly cover someone who is in there.

Make sure you have somebody along with you or somebody knows you are out checking the bins. If possible, use a safety harness. If there is any doubt at all, do not go out on the grain. Also, make sure to protect your lungs by using proper respiratory protection around dusty grain, or especially moldy grain. Never go where there’s flowing grain. Even when just climbing on bins, trucks or railcars, make sure to use fall protection or cages to prevent slips and falls.

If you do see a grain problem that has developed, it is important to correct it as soon as possible. If grain shows signs of heating up or molding, the first thing that can be done is turning on the fan until the grain has cooled back down. If that does not correct the problem, you may need to remove the problem grain, or potentially unload the entire bin. Addressing the problem when it is still small is better than having spoilage throughout the bin.

Your local FS grain system specialist can assist you with recommendations and equipment needs.

Don Fuller works in the GROWMARK Grain systems area. Article sources include “Managing Grain in Storage,” Bill Wilcke, University of Minnesota; and “Corn Storage and Drying,” Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University.