With corn and soybean harvest on the horizon, it is time to start preparing grain storage for this year’s yields. Likely, the grain will be stored for a lengthy period of time in these bins, meaning that a poorly prepared storage may lead to quality loss in the grain. The aim for the grain storage facility is to prevent mold, damage, or insects from spoiling otherwise good-quality grain.
The first step to preparing grain storage is to make sure it is physically clean. Old grain and dust are contaminants for the new grain entering the bin. Make sure to remove any debris from the walls, floor, ladders and other surfaces within the bin that can accumulate such dust. Dispose of the refuse far from the bin, especially if there is a considerable amount of grain, as the leftovers can attract insects and potentially invite the insects into the bin itself once harvest has occurred.
Once the inside of the bin is taken care of, head to the outside perimeter of the grain storage. Make sure any spilled grain is cleaned up and removed and grass and weeds around the bin are mowed short or sprayed. While we are well aware of the pests that weeds can be in the field, they can instead harbor insects and rodents when around grain storage facilities. Allowing the insects to be in such proximity to the bin is simply an invitation for them to enter and potentially spoil grain. If possible, lay concrete or gravel around bins to reduce the insect load vying to enter the facility.
Once sanitation of the grain bin has occurred, you may opt for an insecticide treatment within the bin to kill any insects that may still be in the storage facility. There are several insecticides that may be used inside as well as around the outside of the bin. However, if spraying in the bin, make sure to allow ample time for the insecticide to dry before loading the grain (even up to 2 weeks). If you have a particularly bad insect infestation, you may need to fumigate the bin.
CAUTION. Fumigation utilizes phosphine gas, a highly toxic compound that will cause severe health detriments, if not death, if exposed. Pulmonary edema and vascular system collapse are the cause for rapid death from exposure, while kidney and liver failure result in death up to 3 days post-exposure. Medical intervention after exposure is simply supportive and not curative; there is no antidote for phosphine poisoning. Exposure limit according to OSHA is 0.3 PPM average over an eight hour period and death can occur after 10 minutes of exposure to a concentration of 7.2 PPM Please seek out a licensed and professional fumigation specialist if this service is necessary on your operation.
You’ll also want to ensure that all electric wiring and hookups are in working order. Rodents love to chew, and in the off months, may have found their way into breaker boxes and the like to have themselves a field day. Making sure switches are actually “switching” is another factor. Imagine trying to turn on the fan or dryer to find out nothing is happening. A wonderful harvest could quickly turn into a bin full of spoiled grain if drying elements cannot be turned on or controlled.
Speaking of drying elements, do you use a fan or a gas heater? Is the fan running efficiently? Do you hear a bearing going bad or interference with the blades? You may need to lubricate the bearing or replace it completely. If lubricating it, ensure excess does not run onto the blades, for this will only trap more dust and reduce efficiency. Replacing warped housing around the blades may also increase efficiency by reducing friction on the blade-housing surface. If you’re using a gas heater, make sure there are no leaks in the gas line and that the gas is fully combusting. Have you checked the spark plugs lately? They may need to be replaced if they are not working properly or if the heater is using up gas more quickly than normal. Lastly, schedule fuel deliveries before harvest starts and time them appropriately for your harvest needs.
Current grain bids are at or just under $5 for corn and between $12.25 and $12.50 for soybeans. Make this harvest count, whether you farm purely grain or have livestock to go along with it. A little preparation sets you up for less spoilage and more saleable grain come this fall.
Haley Zynda is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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