Proper grain storage management is important for producers to think about, especially as the region begins to endure the summer months and its temperatures.
“The goal of course is to maintain the quality of our stored grain, so we want to follow whatever the recommended practice is to maintain that quality,” said Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural engineer. “Generally, I go with the statement that grain stored is best cool and dry, so that is our goal.”
Moisture content and temperature work together. A producer can store grain that has a high moisture content, but only if they are able to keep the grain cool. If the grain’s temperature is unable to be cool, then the moisture content needs to be reduced to prevent mold and other unattractive outcomes. Keeping the stored grain cool and dry also allows it to have longevity and an extended storage life.
“The first thing we do is we look at what kind of temperatures that grain will be exposed to during the storage period. Now we are looking at storage during the summer months, typically we are looking at temperatures 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit,” Hellevang said. “We then want to make sure that the moisture content is low enough to allow us to store at that temperature without having spoilage or mold growth occurring.”
Besides avoiding mold and other spoilage from high temperatures and moisture content, insect reproduction is reduced at the temperature of 60 degrees F, helping lower the chances of insect infestation in the stored grain. Adding ventilation at the top of a grain bin will remove the solar heat that raises the grain's overall temperature.
Hellevang recommends producers monitor their stored grain closely. That way, if there is an issue or problem, it can be addressed immediately. While checking on the stored grain, take note of the grain’s moisture content and temperature.
“Grain temperature cables are a wonderful tool, but do not rely on them to replace inspecting for insects or crusting and detecting odors or other indicators of storage problems,” Hellevang said.
Farmers can also keep an eye on the stored grain’s carbon dioxide level, as insect activity and mold growth both produce carbon dioxide.