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Farmers anxious about stored grain

FARGO, N.D. -- With up-and-down temperatures, Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer, says farmers in the region are getting nervous about air-drying grain that went into the bin wet last fall.

FARGO, N.D. -- With up-and-down temperatures, Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer, says farmers in the region are getting nervous about air-drying grain that went into the bin wet last fall.

"The majority of calls coming in right now are guys trying to figure out if it's time to turn fans on to do air-drying in the spring," Hellevang says.

The answer is the air being pushed through needs to be warm enough to have moisture-holding capacity.

"The rough rule of thumb is that until the outside temperature averages 40 degrees, the amount of drying that occurs is so small that it's not economical to do it."

Hellevang says natural air drying requires an air flow rate of 1 cubic feet per minute of air per bushel. He strongly discourages air-drying corn that is more than 21 percent moisture content.

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"The reason is that the corn will spoil faster than it will dry," Hellevang says.

Corn wetter than that should be taken out of the bin and dried in a high-temperature dryer, and most of that has been done by now.

"Until recently, I was getting calls from guys with corn between 22 percent and 23 percent. Until temperatures average 40 degrees, the goal is to keep wetter, stored grain cool," Hellevang says.

"Make sure the temperature of the grain is as near to freezing as we can. I talked to a farmer today who had cooled the corn and it was sitting between 20 and 40 degrees, depending on where he was checking it in the bin. This will store very well."

Bin accidents

Hellevang says so far farmers in North Dakota have avoided grain bin deaths, but not everyone has been so lucky.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, a 60-year-old man was found dead in a grain bin on March 15. Paul Ellingson's body was found on his farm south of Carievale, a town in the southeastern corner of the province. The Citizen says the death was being treated as accidental, with the provincial coroner and Saskatchewan's farm occupational health and safety branch investigating. A 62-year-old Manitoba farmer was found dead at the bottom of a grain bin in February.

Hellevang says he was told Ellingson had been working in a bin by himself and was found, sucked to the bottom of a bin.

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"They think he went into the bin while it was unloading, which is an absolute no-no," he says. "This guy was supposedly safety-conscious, a good farmer."

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