Shawn Shouse, an Iowa State University Extension ag engineering specialist, explains how last year’s crop has been difficult to manage. The grain had low quality and high moisture conditions upon harvest, which will cause issues if it continues to be stored. “Keeping that grain in storage even longer has serious risk factors,” he says. “Despite prices being less than desired, it is likely best to move the old grain, making space for new grain.”

Even though Shouse advises to sell old grain now, farmers have options if they decide to wait for prices to increase, he notes. Creating outdoor and indoor piles, or using a bagging system will allow farmers to temporarily accommodate their grain.

Also, some farmers will be storing grain in temporary piles or in big plastic bags this fall because their on-farm storage bins were damaged by the Aug. 10 windstorm, especially in central and eastern Iowa. At least for part of their crop, they’ll likely have to use piles or bags.

Considering outdoor piles? 

One way farmers can keep an excess of grain is by creating outdoor piles. This may be the most available and lowest cost option, but it’s also the riskiest. Grain stored outside is susceptible to spoiling because it’s exposed to higher moisture and temperatures.

Another thing to consider when storing grain outdoors is the location and foundation of the pile. “Provide good drainage to get surface water away from the pile and provide a solid base that allows traffic without contaminating grain with mud or rock,” Shouse suggests. “Concrete or asphalt with a crowned surface is ideal.”

Indoor piles better option 

A more reliable option is to create indoor piles of grain. Grain elevators use this storage tactic with large, covered structures, but farmers can also create their own version on the farm. Contrary to outdoor piles, indoor piles provide more protection from deterioration.

The building in which an indoor pile is created should meet certain criteria to ensure the best grain storage. “Buildings used for grain storage must have walls that are designed for grain pressure, be reinforced properly, have free-standing storage walls inside the building or be filled with grain not touching the walls,” Shouse says.

Since indoor space is more limiting than outdoor space, he explains the calculations for farmers to determine how much area is needed for their grain. “The volume in a simple cone-shaped pile is equal to the area covered on the ground times one third of the peak height,” he says. “If the pile has vertical sidewalls beneath the cone-shaped top, add the bushels of the sidewall enclosed area.”

Bagging another alternative 

A third option for temporary storage is to use a bagging system. This is a more complex option as it requires specific equipment to unroll and fill each bag with grain. Shouse says the costs for bags, along with the labor needed for filling and emptying, can be high, but farmers may choose this option for its flexibility.

An advantage to this system is protection from rainfall. A disadvantage is the decreased aeration and temperature regulation inside the small silo bags. “The grain temperature will rise and fall considerably with seasonal temperature,” Shouse cautions. “Because of these limitations, bags work best with dry grain. Fill them with grain that’s already been dried down to moisture levels considered safe for storage.”

Additional helpful advice 

Even though storage options such as bins are ideal for grain, there are ways farmers can increase the success of temporary storage. To reduce spoilage, grain should be sanitized prior to being stored. The ground under temporary piles should be free of odors or contaminants. It’s beneficial to clean the grain by running it through screens beforehand to remove fine particles—since temporary piles cannot be cored.

Grain above 18% moisture content isn’t suitable to be temporarily stored. The length of storage can be increased as moisture content is decreased. “Corn that’s 15% to 18% moisture content should be removed from temporary storage by mid-January,” Shouse says. “Dry corn [corn that’s less than 15% moisture content with aeration and temperature control] may be stored for up to six months, if adequately managed.”

Ultimately, farmers will have to make decisions about selling low priced grain or finding solutions for keeping it. “My bottom line advice is to not put high-quality, new grain at risk by keeping questionable, old grain in your good storage structures,” Shouse says. “But I know that’s hard advice to follow when prices are unfavorable.”

For more information about temporary grain storage, visit Purdue University and North Dakota State University.

Friedrichsen is a Wallaces Farmer intern.

Source: Wallaces Farmer