Grain Management Vital Now

After enjoying a generally nice harvest season this year, now is the time for upper Midwestern producers to focus on managing the grain in storage, North Dakota State University’s grain handling and storage expert says.

NDSU Extension Service agricultural engineer Ken Hellevang recommends producers check the moisture content of the grain at a few locations in the bin because this will determine the management steps they need to take to preserve the stored grain.

Producers should follow the moisture meter manufacturer’s recommendations to obtain an accurate reading. They can verify the meter’s reading by warming the grain sample to room temperature in a sealed plastic bag or other sealed container before measuring the moisture content.

Here are other grain management suggestions from Hellevang:

To estimate the cooling time of 56 pounds-per-bushel grain, divide 15 by the airflow rate. For example, about 75 hours of fan time is required to cool the grain using an airflow rate of 0.2 cubic feet per minute per bushel (cfm/bu). Cooling times of other grain are the ratio of 56 pounds and the grain weight. For example, barley with a weight of 48 pounds per bushel will cool more quickly than corn at 56 pounds per bushel (48 divided by 56 equals 0.86).

Temperature cables are an excellent tool to measure the grain temperature, but they only measure the temperature of the grain next to the sensor. Grain is a very good insulator, so warm or hot grain just a few feet from the sensor may not be detected.

Hellevang says corn moisture content may be an issue this year. Corn at moisture contents up to 20 percent was harvested and placed in bins with natural-air drying fans sized to provide an airflow rate of at least 1 cfm/bu. Even though the outdoor temperature and relative humidity were conducive for drying during October, the drying zone may not have moved through all the grain.

The estimated drying time for corn with a moisture content up to 20 percent is 30 to 40 days with an average air temperature of about 50 F, about 50 to 60 days at 40 F and at least 70 days when the air temperature is near 30 F.

The moisture-holding capacity of the air at temperatures below 35 to 40 F is small, so drying becomes inefficient using natural-air/low-temperature (NA/LT) drying. Drying time also is related to the airflow rate, so at an airflow rate of 0.75 cfm/bu, drying time at 1 cfm/bu is extended from 40 days to about 53 days (40 divided by 0.75).

Warming the air by about 5 degrees will allow producers to continue drying corn with the typically higher air humidity level that occurs in November if the outdoor air temperature is averaging at least 35 to 40 F, Hellevang says. Adding more heat causes grain in the bottom of the bin to dry to a lower-than-desired moisture content.

Producers should use a bin-stirring device or do batch-in-bin drying with only a few feet of grain in the bin if the air is heated more than 5 to 10 degrees. NA/LT drying can be completed in the spring starting when outdoor temperatures again average about 40 F.

Visit for more information from NDSU about grain drying and storage.

Source: Ken Hellevang and Ellen Crawford, North Dakota State University 

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