If you’re planning to store grain long-term, there are many things to take into consideration that aren’t necessarily an issue when grain is only being stored for a few months - like changing temperatures and humidity levels, for example. The biggest challenge with any long-term storage is moisture. How can you keep your grain from spoiling as a result of too much moisture? And how can too small of an amount of moisture impact your harvest?
When properly stored, hard grains like corn, wheat, and millet can be stored for years, with careful preparation. Here are a few ways that you can ensure successful, long-term storage without any headaches or unfortunate surprises.
Clean and Prepare Storage Bins
The first step to prepare to store grains long-term is to fully clean out storage bins. Any insects in aeration ducts, under perforated floors or in the grain bins themselves need to be properly dealt with, using safe fumigation and insecticide products.
You can even use bin sprays and grain protectants to help reduce the risk of issues caused by insect infestations. This is especially important if you will be storing grain through warmer months, when insects are most likely to cause problems.
Store High-Quality Grain
You’ll want to ensure that the grain you are storing is as high-quality as it can be. Grain that has been compromised by exposure to moisture or insects will only continue to spoil as you store it long-term. Because of this, you won’t want to store this year’s grain with last year’s grain.
You also will want to store hearty, mature grain. For example, grains that were exposed to frost may be immature and will have less of a chance of surviving through a long period of storage.
Proper Moisture Levels and Drying Times
Each type of grain should be dried to its specific moisture content. Wheat, for example should be dried to a different level of moisture than soybeans, and in general, grains should be dried to a lower level of moisture that normal if you are planning to store them for more than a few short months.
Because it takes both heat and moisture to develop mold and moisture issues in grain, it’s the heat of the summer months that can be problematic, and as a result, grains stored through the summer months require this lower level of moisture, and grains stored for multiple years (and multiple summers), require an even lower moisture level yet.
As an example, corn should typically be dried to a moisture level of 15% in order to be stored for a short period of time. If it is being stored until the next harvest past June, when outside temperatures climb, it becomes vital to store the corn at 14%, but if you are planning to store the corn for a year or longer, it must be stored at a moisture content level of 13%.
Because of these precise specifications in moisture levels, it becomes vital to have a properly working, accurate agricultural grain and seed moisture meter. When dealing with a critical moisture level variance of only a degree or two, having a reliable moisture meter can make all the difference in grain storage. After all, too much moisture leads to grain spoilage and spoilage leads to lost profits. Even just one percent variation in moisture content can impact how well grain stores, which makes a properly functioning, accurate moisture meter a necessity.
The Importance of Temperature
It’s vital to the success of your long-term storage to ensure that you can properly control the temperature of your grain. Just as vital? An accurate gauge of temperature, so there is a safe way to monitor the grain. In the winter, you will want to be able to store grain just at freezing point, or even slightly below freezing in order to maintain its viability. And in the spring and summer, the grain can be warmed slightly. While there is some discrepancy as to the temperature at which grain should be stored, it should be kept somewhere around 40 to 50 degrees.
Why is this so important? Warm temperatures foster mold growth, so keeping the grain at a reasonable temperature prevents the grain from creating a perfect environment for mold to grow. Just as it’s necessary to keep the grain at a low moisture level, it’s key to keep the grain cool enough so that it does not foster mold growth, but warm enough that the grain is not damaged by cold temperatures.
It’s recommended that you check your grain for quality, temperature, and of course, moisture, at least once per week in the summer, and once every few weeks in the winter. At the top, check first to see if there is any noticeable smell, then collect a sample to measure the moisture content with your moisture meter. We make instant moisture testers, both contact and non-contact so this amount of testing is painless... and prudent! We even make analyzers that can measure in storage hoppers without taking samples.
Keep an eye out for visible indications of moisture or spoilage, such as smell, condensation on the roof of the bin, excessive pressure from the aeration fans, and insects - especially in the warmer months.
Need more guidance on how a grain and seed moisture meter can help you safely store grain long-term? Contact us today! At Kett, we think moisture meters can continue to make a big difference in agriculture, and we would love to show you how!