"It seems our growing seasons aren't ‘normal' anymore, with periods of drought and heavy rains evident in the same growing season," Wright notes. "Aphids and soybean cyst nematodes could see major population shifts and each field can demonstrate different pressures. Crop scouting will be as important this year as ever, especially where aphids are concerned. Keeping ahead of the pests will have a direct bearing on grain quality."
Cleaning and Conditioning
The opinions on strategies for grain cleaning are as varied and different as the grains themselves. However, one thing everyone agrees on is this: Elevator and mill managers alike must know exactly what to expect from a cleaning system as it relates to their unique operation.
"An elevator may choose to rough clean for in-house equipment protection, reduction of light grain dust and insect pressure for a better stored product for later resale," says Allan Tedrow, grain industry leader, Bratney Companies, Des Moines, IA. "On the other hand, if an elevator has an opportunity to sell a premium product, they may decide a premium cleaning system is needed for meeting exacting end-user standards for food customers or export markets.
"That's why it's so critical to fully understand the needs of both the elevator and the end-user customers," Tedrow says. "The chief value cleaning typically brings is opening up a new customer base. While the client may not want to pay a large premium for a product, providing them a consistent product at large volumes helps demonstrate the ROI rather dramatically."
And considering how much investment has gone into raising, feeding and harvesting the grain, it seems pointless to not give the same amount of attention to properly cleaning the crop as it enters the facility. Surprisingly though, there are some common errors that industry suppliers see customers make that compromise grain quality, end-user utility and, ultimately, the bottom line.
"Things we sometimes see that can cost facilities money is under-buying for your facility," says Rick Gergatz, vice president, product development and technical sales, ArrowCorp., Winnipeg, Manitoba. "Let's say you install a system and within a couple years you need to add more capacity. Now, you have a relatively new system that doesn't serve your needs. Facility managers need to be realistic and cost-conscious for certain, but by the same token you need to have a system that will grow as your operation grows.
"Along those lines, if your facility handles multiple crops like corn, cereals or sunflowers, all these crops deliver unique challenges to a cleaning system," Gergatz adds. "Not having the right components in place to do the job properly can result in lost revenue and opportunity from not meeting the customers' requirements."
Tedrow adds that, in some cases, the challenge can be as simple as explaining how a cleaning system can deliver a positive ROI to the facility.
"No doubt, a cleaning system can be a significant investment, but thoroughly explaining how the system pays the facility back over the life of the financing terms, can often bring the system's value in much clearer focus," Tedrow adds.
Cleaning and sifting systems can deliver direct bottom-line value including making storage and aeration systems more efficient.
"A facility that unloads 500 semi loads of grain a day may have up to 1% or more of that volume as foreign material," says Matt Podany, general manager for EBM Manufacturing, Inc., Norfolk, NE. "That translates into storing five semi loads of fines and other foreign material every day. That material eats up space and energy to dry and condition it, which results in losses of real dollars for the facility.
"So why would anyone want to store product that doesn't deliver value?" he adds. "A cleaning and screening system can remove foreign materials which can be either sold later or used in other value-added applications."
Podany says helping customers maintain quality and consistency through to the finished product is what helps drive profits.
"When a feed customer opens a bag they expect to see uniform, relatively consistent pellets, not a bunch of dust or crumbs," Podany points out. "Our system has helped users maintain consistency which satisfies both the customer and the animals alike."