Stored Grains Good Despite Temp Changes

With Low Moisture Levels at Harvest, Most Stored Grain in Good Condition

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Farmers and Extension specialists report most stored grain is in decent condition since it entered bins at fairly low moisture levels. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Wide temperature fluctuations since harvest in some parts of the Corn Belt ranged from below zero to 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit. Despite these temperature swings, grain in storage appears to be generally in good shape across the Midwest.

A mostly dry fall had most grain going into storage at lower moisture levels, including some areas with corn coming out of the field at 15% moisture. Those storing grain do not see a lot of issues with out-of-condition grain, according to experts.


Iowa State University Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Charles Hurburgh manages the Iowa State Grain Quality Research Laboratory as well as the Extension-based Iowa Grain Quality Initiative. He told DTN grain quality for now should be good. A warm fall lowered moisture levels in crops and allowed most grain to be stored with fairly low moisture.

On-farm stored grain should be in decent shape with this low moisture content if common practices like coring bins to remove fines were followed, he said.

"We just have not had a lot of basic problems with stored grain this year," Hurburgh said.

About the only issue Hurburgh has seen this winter was grain stored in piles in commercial storage. Often the grain is covered with a tarp system with constantly running fans; this allows various temperatures to develop in the grain. So, you could have a layer of 70-degree grain followed by a layer of 30-degree grain, which could lead to some grain quality issues, he said.

Hurburgh said not much can be done to prevent this as the fans have to run. The good news is this storage method is normally temporary, so hopefully the pile will be removed before too much grain goes out of condition, he said.


Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural engineer, said solar energy can have a negative effect on stored grain.

Usually, solar energy heats grain inside the bin along the south wall if it gets warm enough outside. Grain temperatures generally rise for part of the day, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then go back down the rest of the day, he said.

Solar energy tends to be more a concern later in the spring as the daylight hours start to increase and air temperatures start to rise.

"Our goal with storing grain is to keep the grain as cool as possible," Hellevang said.


Joel Grams, a Minden, Nebraska, farmer, told DTN his corn in storage appears to be in good shape. He hadn't heard of any storage issues in his south-central Nebraska region.

Grams and his brothers own a small concrete elevator, which will keep stored grain in good condition with enough air blowing on it. They try to get the grain cooled in the fall and usually don't run fans when it is too warm outside since the corn is fairly dry when they put it in there, he said.

"I think corn which has been stored around here is fine, I haven't heard of any issues," Grams said.

Jason Scott who farms near Burrows, Indiana, said he recently pulled a sample from one of his bins and the stored grain was OK. The grain was fairly dry when he put it in the bin.

The crops of central Indiana dried down quickly last fall due to some hot weather, he said.

Scott said soybeans were mainly at 13% moisture, but some got down to 11%, which stores well. Corn went into storage at 17% or so, he said.

"It seems like it stores way better when Mother Nature helps like this instead of us trying to knock 10% off with a dryer," Scott said.

Mike Carlson, who farms near Red Oak, Iowa, said he also has seen very few issues with his stored grain. He recently checked his bins and the grain seemed fine.

"We haven't had to deal with moisture in the crop coming out of the field for a few years now," Carlson said.


Hellevang said farmers should have a grain storage plan in place. Storing grain during winter is straightforward but as temperatures increase, it does become more of a challenge.

Farmers are holding onto their grain longer than in the past; thus, grain that will be stored into the warmer spring and summer will need to be kept at lower temperatures.

Soybeans should be stored at 12% moisture to be able to make it to summer in good condition, he said. Corn can be stored at 15% moisture until about April, but if it is going to be stored longer term, the moisture should be around 13.5% to 14%

In addition, Hellevang said he recommends bin fans should be covered when not in use.

High winds can blow warm air into the bins. This can cause a natural chimney effect where the top part of the bin heats up from the warmer air blowing through uncovered fans, he said.

Hurburgh said one grain storage practice which is becoming more popular is storing corn in plastic bags right in the field. The corn is harvested, stored in bags and then generally removed in a short time.

About the only way to safely store corn in bags would be in a fall with corn coming out of the field at a lower moisture percentage, like last fall. Air can't be blown onto the corn, so you can't control the temperature of the grain; thus, the moisture has to be low, he stressed.

"It's a big risk storing this way and what if your plans change? This year, it would work, but you probably can't count on it every year," Hurburgh said.

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Russ Quinn