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Preserve Quality in Your Harvest Grain

Tips for storing your crop if predictions hold for a wet harvest.

There are forecasts for a cooler and wetter-than-normal harvest across the U.S., posing a new round of challenges for producers. You’ve brought your crop this far; don’t risk it getting discounted for quality issues. What can you do to prepare your bins for new grain, keep it dry, and preserve its quality through delivery?

We recently put those questions to professional grain handlers at the Farm Progress Show. Host Doug Roose, Vice President of Producer Marketing for ADM, talked with two colleagues who supervise grain moving through ADM facilities every day;

  • Jordan Pollock, (Operations Support), Process Optimization Group, ADM
  • Jay Ramsey, (Operations Support), Process Optimization Group, ADM

For their complete tips on aerating, drying, and storing grain, listen to the conversation here:



Here’s a summary of the discussion:

Before harvest, how should I prepare my storage facilities and conveying equipment?

Make sure your equipment’s operating correctly and that you don’t have anything caught in your augers. Clean out the dust. In storage facilities, the fines (grain dust) build up inside the duct work and reduce airflow—and it harbors insects.

To safely store through the winter, dry good quality corn to 15% moisture and soybeans to 13%. To store over summer, those target levels drop to 13% and 11% respectively.

What are some key tips for storing grain if the weather is wet?

Make sure your storage facilities have adequate air—that fans are operating properly. Plan early for the moisture level you’ll be storing in your grain, and whether you need to dry it down. Set your combine so dust fines don’t clog airflow through the system. While you’re filling the bin, use coring to maintain the air flow.

Is there a rule of thumb for proper aeration?

Ideally, for every 1 cubic foot per minute (cfm) of air per bushel, you want to run your fans 12 hours to get the cooling front through the bin. So, if you’re set up for 1/10th cfm, you’d run your fans for 5 days or 120 hours. You can also use an equilibrium chart, available online. When you know your grain temperature and moisture level, and the moisture level you want to maintain, the chart tells you how long to run your fans.

Are there any ways to cut down on the amount of time required for aeration?

If you have multiple bins to utilize, start out with a lower volume of grain in each one. With half a bin full, you can push air through it faster and drop the moisture down more quickly. When you start filling the bin with a moisture level above 15%, start your fans up as soon as you get grain on the aeration.

If you don’t have advanced equipment, how do you monitor moisture?

Use your nose and other senses. If you open the bin door and get a blast of warm moist air, that front isn’t done moving through the bin. If you get a nice cool draft close to the ambient temperature outside, you’re getting that front pushed through.

In drying grain, is “low and slow” better than “hot and fast”?

Low and slow is ideal. You want to avoid stress fractures or broken kernels. When you’re discharging the grain from the bottom of your dryer, stay within 20 to 30 degrees of your ambient temperature outside, so you don’t get a flash-freeze effect on the warm moist kernel.

If I’ve overdried my grain, can’t I put moisture back in by running a fan on a humid day?

It’s a lot easier to take moisture out of grain than to get it back in. If you try, you’ll introduce moisture that’s not natural to the kernel. Molds and odor may follow and that will mean problems down the road. You’re better off managing moisture on the front end.

How close should bin temperatures be to ambient temperatures outside?

Stay within 20 or 30 degrees. If it’s 30 degrees in a bin and 90 degrees outside, you’ll create a sweating effect on the outside and a greenhouse effect inside. The grain will start to crust over. If you run into that issue, pull a cone out of the bin to break it up and continue airing until you can get that bin empty.

Do I need to start with dry grain next to the aeration surface, or does it matter?

If you’ve got full-floor aeration and good air, it’s probably not critical. With a bigger bin and tunnel aeration, anything that sits on the concrete won’t get air. If you don’t have a dry base to put in that bin, dry some into a truck and recycle it. Or use that bin as some of your first inventory to market.

Is there a link between bin safety and grain quality?

Yes, unsafe conditions in a bin usually happen when the grain is out of condition and someone is trying to deal with it. So, make sure your grain quality stays high. Other precautions we practice at ADM are:

  • Don’t enter when grain is flowing. Do a lock-out on the equipment.
  • Monitor air quality. If mold is present, beware of lower oxygen levels.
  • Wear a body harness or have external support when standing on grain.

Everything we do to grow, preserve and market this crop, is all for naught if we lose life or limb.

Thanks to our professional ADM grain handlers for these tips. If you have questions about preserving your grain quality this harvest, call your local ADM representative. We’d be glad to give you input. Please have a safe and prosperous harvest.

Past performance is not indicative of future results.

ADM is providing this communication for informational purposes, and it is not a solicitation or offer to purchase or sell commodities. The recommendations in this communication do not take into account any particular individual’s or company’s objectives or needs, which should be considered before engaging in any commodity transactions based on these recommendations. The sources for the information and recommendations in this communication are believed to be reliable, but ADM does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy of the information or recommendations. ADM or its affiliates may hold or take positions for their own accounts that are different from the positions recommended in this communication. The information and recommendations in this communication are subject to change without notice.

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