Editor’s note: The following was written by Robert Wright, University of Nebraska Extension entomologist, for the university’s Crop Watch website.
With harvest approaching, it’s time to prepare grain bins and harvesting equipment to ensure grain going into storage will remain in good condition.
Don’t wait until the middle of harvest to discover a bin foundation is severely cracked, or find even later that insects from grain that was left in the combine last fall have severely infested a bin of new grain.
Proper bin and equipment preparation is a key to preserving stored grain quality.
The key to good grain storage is to put the highest-quality grain into the bin or bring it to the proper moisture condition as quickly as possible. Overall quality of stored grain always deteriorates, it is just a matter of how fast.
Having a good marketing plan and selling as much as possible before the grain heats up next spring is the best way to have quality stored grain. It is never as good as the day it is put into the bin. Storing the grain longer than next spring requires much more vigilance in management.
Remove all traces of old grain from combines, truck beds, grain carts, augers and any other equipment used for harvesting, transporting and handling grain. Even small amounts of moldy or insect-infested grain left in equipment can contaminate a bin of new grain.
Adjust combines according to the manufacturer’s specifications to minimize grain damage and to maximize removal of fines and other foreign material.
Proper cleaning and bin preparation will help assure grain going into storage will remain in good condition.
Check the bin site and remove any items or debris that would interfere with safe, unobstructed movement around the bin. Remove any spilled grain and mow the site to reduce the chances of insect or rodent infestation. If necessary, re-grade the site so water readily drains away from bin foundations.
Inspect bins and foundations for structural problems. Uneven settlement of foundations can cause gaps between the foundation and bottom edge of the bin. This can result in grain spills and provide entry points for water, insects and rodents.
If perforated floors are used, a gap between the foundation and bin will allow air that would normally be forced through the grain to escape from the bin. Small gaps can usually be filled with a high quality caulking compound. If deterioration is extensive, the mastic seal may need to be replaced.
Be sure all anchor bolts are tight and not damaged.
Inspect the bin roof and sides, inside and out, for leaks, loose or sheared bolts, rust or other corrosion, etc. Check the roof vents and access hatch and caulk any cracks at the roofline. Be sure the access ladder is complete and securely fastened to the bin. Repair or replace any deteriorated components.
Wiring for fans and other electrical components should be inspected for corrosion and cracked, frayed or broken insulation. Exposed wiring should be run through waterproof, dust-tight conduit. Avoid kinking the conduit and make sure all connections are secure.
Check fans, heaters, transitions and ducts for corrosion and damage. Remove any accumulated dust and dirt that will reduce the operating efficiency. Be sure all connections are tight.
Cleaning & insecticides
Remove any old grain with brooms and vacuum cleaners. Never put new grain on top of old. Also, clean bins not being used for storage this year to keep insects from migrating to other bins.
If you think there is any chance you might hold grain in the bin into May or later, it would be prudent to apply residual insecticides to the empty bin after thoroughly cleaning it. You may also apply certain insecticides onto the grain as it is being augered into the bin.
A surface application is often recommended to prevent Indian meal moths from infesting the top surface of the grain.
If the bin has a raised drying floor and was known to be infested with grain storage insects last season, consider hiring a professional pest control operator to fumigate the empty bin prior to filling with new grain.