Storage Strategies

Unique approaches may be required as the market encourages more producers to hold onto their crops.

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, Image by Pamela Smith

A plentiful harvest combined with the U.S. trade dispute with its largest soybean customer, China, pushed producers to store as many bushels of beans as possible as this year’s harvest ended.

A quick scan of social media shows several photos of farmers utilizing older, smaller bins to store beans. Farmers and grain elevators in some parts of the country were already carrying over more old-crop soybeans than normal in late 2018. As the end of the year neared, USDA reports showed soybean stocks stood at 438 million bushels, up 45% from a year ago. Farmers were holding 101 million bushels on the farm, 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.

Shane Stutzman, a grain bin dealer for Hynek Construction, Friend, Nebraska, says it’s important when storing soybeans to monitor the relative humidity and air temperature. Stored beans take on moisture and dry out much easier than corn, evidenced by how quickly they dry and absorb moisture while still in the field, he explains.

He gives a specific example of a 10,000-bushel bin with soybeans stored at 12% moisture. Using an overdrying, net-loss formula, if the farmer runs the fan too long and dries the beans down to 9% moisture, this costs him $2,250 in shrink plus the expense of running the fan.

Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach encourages extra care when drying beans, noting that, compared to corn, they are fragile. Air that is too hot or too dry, or rough handling, can damage beans.

“Soybeans have about 25% less airflow resistance than shelled corn, so fans sized for corn drying will produce greater airflow through soybeans,” ISU reports. “Greater airflow means faster drying.”

ISU experts recommend reducing heat for soybeans and limiting air drying to 130 to 140ËšF for commercial beans and 100 to 110ËšF 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 fans during warm, rainy weather, Stutzman adds. The best time of the year to do this would be from March until late May or early June across most of the Corn Belt.

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

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

AVOID GREEN PODS. A common issue with storing soybeans is green pods in the stored grain.

While farmers may want to harvest beans at 12 to 13% moisture and put them in the bin to avoid losses in shrink, at those moisture levels, there may be quite a few green pods. If the bin doesn’t have a spreader, those pods tend to sift out and slide to the walls, where they gather and quickly rot because of the high moisture content.

“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 says. “The best remedy is to use a grain spreader.”

WATCH FOR PESTS. Always keep a watchful eye out for pests in beans. The general rule of thumb is the longer they are stored, the greater the chance of an infestation.

Strategies to reduce loss to pests include keeping bins clean and in good repair, and treating detected infestations. DTN entomologist Scott Williams says soybean-specific pests include bean leaf beetles and various weevils.

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

Williams says coring bins (removing grain along with some fines) will pull most of the fines out of bins and limit pest feeding as the source of feed has been mostly removed.

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


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