How to maintain grain quality during storage


More growers than usual may need grain drying and storage facilities this year. Wet, cool weather has caused some fields to dry slower, delaying harvest.

Growers may choose to harvest the grain at higher moisture levels and dry it so that the crop is removed from the field in a timely manner.

Low commodity prices and high yields also may compel more farmers to look for additional grain storage to hold this crop. If you plan to dry and store grain, a proper management program will help protect the quality of your grain during drying and storage.

Grain Moisture

If grain moisture is too high, the grain will spoil during storage. Optimum moisture levels for corn to be safely stored are 15.5 percent for storage until June, 14 percent for one year of storage and 13 percent for longer than one year of storage.

Soybeans must be at 13 percent moisture for storage until June, 12 percent for one year of storage and 11 percent for longer than one year of storage.

If corn is excessively wet, or with moisture content of 25 percent or higher, it must be dried at temperatures around 220 to 230 degrees. Once moisture levels drop to 20 percent, dryer temperatures may be reduced to 190 degrees. As grain moisture levels drop, dryer temperatures may be reduced.

Optimum temperatures will vary depending on dryer type, capacity, flow and take-away equipment speed. Be sure to consult your local dryer expert for optimum temperatures for your setup.

Grain Temperature

When holding grain for a short time or storing it for a longer period, aeration should be used to keep the grain cool and reduce potential mold growth. Properly aerated grain can generally be safely held about four times longer than non-aerated grain.

Aeration also can control insect activity by keeping grain temperatures at or below 60 degrees. Aeration is critical early in the fall to cool grain after a warm harvest. Waiting too long will invite insect activity.

When moving grain from a dryer into storage, cool the grain down within four to six hours and continue running the fan until all grain has been cooled.

Maintain Grain Condition

Grain quality will not improve during storage, so the best you can do is maintain the quality. This means making sure the storage bins and the bin site is clean before storing grain.

Properly adjust the combine to minimize grain damage. Then clean the grain as it goes into a bin. A rotating grain cleaner is recommended.

Managing Aeration

Once the grain is in the bin, aeration is needed to keep it at a seasonally cool temperature. Aeration also will maintain uniform grain temperatures — no more than 10 degrees different from one part of the bin to another.

Keeping grain temperatures within 10 to 15 degrees of the average ambient air temperature will achieve this. So seasonal changes in the aeration fan operation are required.

There are a number of fan operation schedules that can be used to maintain the quality of stored grain. For more information, visit

Following an aeration schedule throughout storage is crucial to maintaining grain quality. But growers also must monitor the grain conditions to verify temperatures are achieved. Generally, grain should be inspected at least once a month during the winter and every two weeks over the spring, summer and fall.

Checking grain condition regularly will help growers correct problems before they get out of hand.


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