The 2021 harvest is close to complete and we hope your experience was safe and satisfying. It’s a year that started with an overabundance of water, and in some places, wind, followed by dry conditions and ending with a run of amazing harvest and tillage weather that rivaled any year I remember. The best news is the yields were at or slightly above average with good quality grain that dried down quickly.

All grains are at their peak quality and value at the time of harvest. From that point on, the grain condition can only get worse and it will never get better. The process of drying, storing and aerating grain is the only means we have for maintaining that optimum condition. Diligence is necessary for success.

Observe your stored grain weekly, especially during critical fall and spring periods when average air temperatures are changing rapidly. Check the surface of the grain for signs of crusting, wet, sticky or frozen kernels. Inspect the underside of the roof for signs of condensation. Probe the grain surface in several places with a grain thermometer on a length of rod to detect any heating. If any of these signs appear, you must react quickly as conditions can accelerate and jeopardize the entire grain mass.

Stored grain needs to be cooled down to 35 to 40 degrees for winter storage. Aeration cycles need to be started anytime that the average 24-hour temperature is 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the temperature of the grain. The biggest mistake in aerating grain is not running the fans long enough. If the temperature of the entire grain mass is not equalized, problems will occur at the level in the bin where the temperature is unequal.

It is a good practice to core your bins to remove accumulated fines from the center as well as aiding in leveling the grain. Air follows the path of least resistance. Accumulated fines will block airflow and go out of condition if not broken up or removed. If grain is peaked or not level, air will escape at the shallowest level. Unaerated grain will cause problems as temperature differentials increase with the seasonal changes.

This is a critical time for keeping stored grain safe

How long should you run your fans? The answer depends on the airflow rate (cfm/bushel) of your fans. To tell if an aeration cycle has passed through the grain is to make sure the air temperature coming out of the grain is the same as the outside air.

See chart to the right for typical fan run times.

If you are storing poor quality grain, don’t plan to keep it past the cold winter period. All the odds are against you. Close monitoring will help protect and maintain your grain quality and avoid spoilage losses.

Don Fuller works for GROWMARK grain systems.