The 2020 growing season has brought its share of stress to many farmers in the Midwest. After strong winds, hail, drought and early snow, many are hoping to get out of harvest with minimal hits to grain quality.
That quality will be affected by grain storage options now. A rare harvest-season rally in grain prices is helping some elevators that lost storage this season.
“Most people sold beans with these prices,” said Jessica Putz, a grain merchandiser from Linn Co-op in Springville, Iowa. “That clears up some storage space when we just turn around and truck it to town instead of keeping it on the premises.”
That storage relief comes at a time when Putz’s Springville location lost 270,000 bushels of storage due to the August derecho. Even without the rally, Putz said the elevator was preparing to store the 2020 harvest by purchasing a bagger and clearing out the space in the bins.
“That was our alternative to losing the amount of grain storage we had in the storm,” she said. “We bagged it early and got it out of the way. We can always do more bags too.”
By bagging the old crop, Putz said they shouldn’t need to store much grain outside, which should help with long-term quality of the grain. Other farmers may not be so lucky and have to watch for other issues.
Gary Woodruff, a grain conditioning expert with GSI, said ground-stored grain is the most serious issue people can expect this year. He said any sort of moisture or damage can lead to molds and toxins that will damage a crop exponentially.
“Mold problems in general are probably going to be the biggest things we see,” Woodruff said. “You need to identify that grain as having a problem and you need to dry it drier than you normally do.”
Getting drier grain will allow it to be more resilient. Woodruff said if the grain is compromised, he suggests dropping corn moisture another point, around 14% or even 13% in some of the more affected fields.
“It’s the same thing if you have a potato salad,” Woodruff said. “If you leave it on a park bench and it’s 80 degrees outside, it’s going to go bad quickly. If you have it in the refrigerator at 35 degrees, it’ll last a long time. Corn is nothing more than food and it reacts in all the same way. The quicker you can get that grain down below 50 degrees, the better.”
While corn harvest is slow going in the severely damaged areas of the Midwest, the quality coming into elevators — even the damaged corn — doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue as of yet, according to Putz.
“The corn is actually pretty dry coming in — it’s not uncommon for it to be 16 or under,” she said. “People are saving on drying costs this year, but some might be classified as too dry. Test weights are roughly in the 56 range, but better than what people thought. We are just getting started and getting rain, so we’ll be curious to see what happens.”