It may feel like only yesterday that you were doing spring cleaning, but the amber waves of grain outside my window tell me how much time has passed. Hopefully, all the seeds you’ve sown have grown into mature crops, and that harvest is only weeks away. Now is the perfect time to talk about fall cleaning and to prepare for storing your grain.
You can save yourself a headache and money if you take action before harvesting a single ear of corn. The most important--and I mean most important--aspect of grain storage is to keep it clean. Researchers at Purdue University have documented that a small investment in sanitation can increase grain values by as much as $0.85 per bushel. That may not seem like much, but it quickly adds up to a significant amount.
INSPECT AND CLEAN. Start by examining your grain bins for signs of damage or wear. Seal up cracks or holes to keep pests out to make other management practices (i.e., fumigation) more effective. While the bin is empty, clean out old grain or other pest refuges. And, since you’re at it, clean any equipment that handles grain, such as combines and augers. The last thing you want to discover is that you’ve been playing host to bugs during the past few months. So, a good wash or vacuuming will remove old material and unwanted pests.
Clean the area around your bins, as well. Long grass and shrubbery provide hiding spots for mice and insects. Leave a 4-foot gravel perimeter around bins, and remove those refuges. Doing so forces pests to relocate. Also, make sure water drains away from bins. Less standing water reduces the chances of the grain getting wet and moldy while in storage.
If your bin has a history of infestation, you may want to apply a preventative pesticide once you’re done cleaning. Products such as Tempo SC Ultra (cyfluthrin), Storcide II (chlorpyrifos-methyl and deltamethrin) and Perma-Guard (diatomaceous earth) can be applied to the inside walls of a bin. Spray until there is runoff on all surfaces. Wait at least 24 hours before loading the grain. Pyrethroid products can also be applied as a perimeter spray on the lower 15 feet of the outer walls. If past infestations were particularly bad, fumigating the bin may be necessary. Products approved for empty-bin fumigation, such as Phostoxin (phosphine), can eliminate any remaining pests but should be applied only by a certified applicator.
DRY AND AERATE. Once you’re done with the bin prep, you’re ready to load the grain. Separating out broken kernels and foreign objects will improve shelf life and reduce damage to the grain and the handling equipment. Cooling and drying grain before storage also goes a long way in maintaining its value over the next few months. Drying the grain below 14% moisture and aerating the bulk temperature below 50ºF will help prevent moisture migration, mold growth and grain pest survival.
As you load the grain, you can also apply a chemical protectant. These products are registered by crop, with some, such as Diacon-D IGR (s-methoprene), used for corn and soybeans, while others, such as Actellic 5E (pirimiphos-methyl), are only approved for corn. Be sure to check the label.
Now, grab your brooms or other preferred cleaning tools and get to work. You’ll thank yourself in a few months when your grain is still clean, whole and ready
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