Don’t risk premiums by letting moisture, mold, pests or undesirable temperature compromise grain quality. Using appropriate drying, aerating and inspecting practices help protect and preserve the value of your grain.
Guarding grain quality is the mission of thousands of grain elevators and farms across America. The guardians of grain quality dedicate their lives to monitoring the commodity at every step in its lifecycle from harvest to feed trough, and it’s not always an easy job. Providing feed manufacturers, exporters and end users with quality grain requires the use of best management practices, measurement tools, the right equipment and a healthy body of knowledge. Proper bin management strategies, such as aeration, moisture management and pest control are equally important as performing the right diagnostics and utilizing the best drying methods for each individual situation.
The reality is there’s nothing anyone can do to make grain better after it’s been harvested. “Grain quality may be maintained but will not be improved,” Scott Chant, president of Safe-Grain, reminds us. “The quality of the incoming product is as good as it will ever be. The operator can clean, dry, fumigate, transfer and segregate incoming product, but again, the incoming quality is as good as it will ever be,” he explains. Using time-tested techniques and equipment helps ensure the quality of your commodity doesn’t decline at any point along the way to its final destination.
Grain Drying and Moisture Management
After grain is harvested, the next step is drying. Moisture management plays a huge role in grain drying, according to Randy Coffee, director of marketing at Sukup Mfg. Co. Measuring the moisture content of the grain before drying is a crucial part of maintaining high quality. This is achieved through the use of moisture monitors and temperature sensors. “We typically monitor the grain kernel as it comes over the sensor and read the temperature and moisture levels at once,” says Coffee.
After the starting moisture level is determined, one can calculate the drying time and temperature. Grain that is high in moisture may require higher heating temperatures and longer drying times. Conversely, low moisture kernels do not need as long a drying time and may achieve the appropriate moisture level at lower temperatures.
The next goal is to make sure moisture does not migrate during storage, causing mold or fungus to grow and spread. The easiest way to prevent moisture from occurring is to completely cool the grain to an ambient temperature in the dryer, or cooling the grain in the storage bin after leaving the dryer. Portable dryers are capable of fulfilling several different drying needs. They can dry and cool the grain within the dryer or use full heat to dry the commodity, which then requires the grain to cool in a storage bin.
— Ed Benson
When grain first comes out of the dryer in full heat mode, it’s about 130 F and 17% corrected moisture. Cooling the grain utilizing a ½-cfm airflow in the storage bin should achieve a final moisture of 15%. Once it cools to ambient temperature, it’s ready to be stored until it’s sold or used.
Mills and elevators know that it is not enough to simply house the commodity; they must ensure the product doesn’t lose any quality while waiting to be used or shipped. Whether long term (three months or longer) or short term (anything less than three months), grain must be properly stored to prevent spoilage from occurring. Temporary storage is commonly resorted to when bin space is limited and other large vacant areas are available nearby the harvest location. However, Ed Benson, general sales manager at Chief Agri-Industries, warns that temporary storage may, in some instances, promote spoilage.