With rain drenching much of the harvest season, there is still a lot of moisture to go around. And in many areas this winter, farmers haven’t seen an extended cold spell, highlighted by an unusually warm first week of 2019.
Mike Moellenbeck, vice president of grain marketing at River Valley Cooperative headquartered in Scott County, Iowa, said most of the 2018 crop put into bins wasn’t too high in moisture, but with warmer weather so far this winter, farmers have to make sure their grain stays in good condition.
“When we say ‘pretty dry,’ there was still corn that was put in bins that was 17 percent or 16.5 percent and not dried or run through a dryer at all,” Moellenbeck said. “Those are the bushels that you do have risk, especially if you have high humidity conditions on top of not excessively cold conditions. You have to be careful when you are running your air.”
When running fans to maintain grain integrity in a warmer climate, Moellenbeck said the best thing is to be thorough.
“Make sure temperature fronts moved through completely,” Moellenbeck said. “As long as you keep your grain temp in the right range, that should be fine to get you to next spring.”
However, when freezing temperatures are in full effect, not much should need to be done to the average grain bin until the spring warmup.
“You don’t want to turn those fans on,” said Tom Miller, a grain handling equipment salesman at Eldon C. Stutsman Inc. in Hills, Iowa. “You want to let it sit until it’s actually going to start staying warm. You want that grain to stay cool. A week of warmer weather is not a reason to turn on the fans.”
He said an extended period of warmer days in the winter — especially if it comes after a snowfall — could cause some issues with condensation.
“There are cases where you’ll have some moisture that condenses on the roof, and the moisture runs down on the inside along the sidewall,” Miller said. “If you don’t run your fans long enough, it’ll tend to make an ice sheet right there. At that point, if you don’t get the fans turned on, that’s the first grain that will go out of commission.”
Charles Hurburgh, who manages the Iowa State Grain Quality Research Laboratory, wrote that “very little heat is recommended” for bin dryers, and if it was possible this fall, air drying would have been best.
Due to a late harvest, if farmers dealt with high-moisture soybeans, their best option was to “either market the grain or cool it below 30 (degrees), with the expectation of resuming drying in the early spring.”
For inspections, Moellenbeck first stressed the importance of taking all safety precautions when working in the bins. There are a few easy, less-risky ways to know if there are reasons for concern, he said.
“If you notice an odor, that’s one way to check,” Moellenbeck said.
He also said the co-op does weekly checks of grain, measuring the temperature and carbon dioxide levels using tools available to them.
“If you don’t have that, make sure you are testing smell and possibly taking out samples to test,” he said.