Storing Soybeans

Special Management Required as Market Encourages Storage

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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As soybean harvest gets into full swing, farmers may need to consider storing more beans because of low prices this fall. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- A plentiful harvest combined with the U.S. trade dispute with its largest soybean customer, China, has pushed some producers to store as many bushels of beans as possible as harvest begins in the Midwest. A quick scan of social media shows several photos of farmers utilizing older, smaller bins to store beans.

A higher percentage of farmers may be more familiar with storing corn in on-farm storage compared to soybeans. While some practices apply to storing all grains correctly, there are certain differences that could present a learning curve when storing beans.

Farmers and grain elevators in some parts of the country are already carrying over more old-crop soybeans than normal. USDA reported Friday soybean stocks on Sept. 1 stood at 438 million bushels, up 45% from a year ago. Farmers were holding 101 million bushels on the farm, 15% higher than 2017, while grain elevators were holding 337 million bushels, up 58% from last year.

Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin each reported 40% or more carryover in total stocks than a year ago, according to USDA.


Shane Stutzman, a grain bin dealer for Hynek Construction located in Friend, Nebraska, told DTN he would not be surprised if farmers decided to store more soybeans than usual this fall. It's not unusual for them to go to some of their bins they might not typically fill in a normal year because they are small or not easy to clean out.

"They (soybeans) are generally pretty easy to store and they don't have nearly as many bushels to store compared to corn," Stutzman said.

Stutzman said one thing farmers typically do incorrectly when storing soybeans is put them in the bin and start the fan to cool them down without monitoring the relative humidity and temperature of the air. Stored beans take on moisture and dry out much easier than corn, as evidenced by how quickly they dry and absorb moisture while still in the field, he said.

He gave a specific example of a 10,000-bushel bin with soybeans stored at 12% moisture. Using an over-drying, net-loss formula, if the farmer would run the fan too long and dry the beans down to 9% moisture, this would end up costing him/her $2,250 in shrink, plus the expense to run the fan, he said.

In a post titled "Soybean Storage Tips" (…), Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach said farmers should be careful when drying soybeans. Compared to corn, beans are fragile and air that is too hot or too dry can cause damage. Rough handling can also damage beans.

"Soybeans have about 25% less airflow resistance than shelled corn, so fans sized for corn drying will produce greater airflow through soybeans," the report stated. "Greater airflow means faster drying."

ISU recommends reducing heat for soybeans and limiting air drying to 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for commercial beans and 100 to 110 degrees F for seed beans.

If beans are too dry when put in the bin or if they are dried down too much, it is possible to rehydrate the crop by running the fans during warm, rainy weather, Stutzman said. The best time of the year to do this would be from March until late May/early June in most of the Corn Belt.

Producers need to try to cool beans when the relative humidity is between 65% and 80%, he said. Running fans over 80% humidity causes condensation in the bottom foot of the bin which causes the beans to crust and rot.

Stutzman said a fan controller or humidistat is important for the process of maintaining stored soybeans.


Stutzman also said another issue with storing soybeans properly is green pods in the stored grain.

Farmers may want to harvest beans at 12% to 13% moisture and put them in the bin as not to lose money to shrink. But, at that moisture, the soybeans may contain quite a few green pods. If the bin doesn't have a spreader, the pods tend to sift out and slide to the walls, where they gather and quickly rot because of high moisture content, he said.

"Rotting pods along the bin wall is very hard on bins and they fall off in big clumps, plugging sumps as the bins are unloaded," he said. "The best remedy is to use a grain spreader."

Stutzman said grain spreaders in new, larger grain bins are not very popular as this product can slow the filling of the bin. There are some spreaders that will handle 4,000 to 10,00 bushels per hour, he said.


Storing requires producers to keep a watchful eye out for possible pests in the grain. The general rule of thumb is the longer grain is stored, the greater the chance of an infestation.

A post from Sept. 24 titled "How do I Manage Insects in my Stored Grains" by Adam Varenhorst, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension field crop entomologist (…), includes a section on the Seven Components to a Stored Grain Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan. These detailed strategies examine all issues with stored grain, from keeping bins clean and in good repair to treating detected infestation when necessary.

DTN Entomologist Scott Williams said there are pests such as moths and beetles that will feed on all stored grain. Soybean specific pests include bean leaf beetles and various weevils.

Pests can feed on stored grain in both the immature (larval) and adult stages. Insect pests can be grouped into internal or external feeders with internal feeders feeding on the grain itself while external feeders will consume grain dust, cracked seeds and other grain debris (fines).

William said coring bins (removing grain along with some fines) will pull most of the fines out of the bins and limit pest feeding as the source of feed has been mostly removed. If pests are found in stored grain, producers have a range of control options, he said.

"Stored beans can be treated and insecticides can be directly applied to the grain," Williams said. "Protectants can be applied as the bin is filled, surface applications can be applied in layers, and fumigants can be all at once."


Weather in the fall as the bin is being filled with soybeans could also affect the condition of the grain. DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said weather conditions for fall harvest could be back and forth in terms of temperatures and precipitation.

The 30-day forecast for October has a cool look to it with a good portion -- certainly the western sector -- in line for below normal temperatures, Anderson said. The rest of the Midwest has a near to below normal look on temperatures with precipitation basically near normal.

"Over the longer term, the 90-day forecast through the end of the year has a warm pattern with above normal temperatures indicated," Anderson said. "Precipitation looks to be near normal except for the southern states during the 90-day time frame."

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Russ Quinn