April 5, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

Have you smelled your grain bin lately?

Regular inspections of stored grain including how it smells are important to maintaining quality grain for the marketplace.

Today, many bushels of grain remain in storage on farms as producers wait to fulfill contracts or for better prices. Proper care of that grain is essential in maintaining its integrity for the market.

Grain storage is not the end of production but another step in the process and needs to be done properly. Even those who have already emptied their bins this season need to remember to take proper steps as they prepare for this summer's wheat harvest.

Grain storage techniques were discussed last week inside the Henderson Fine Arts Center during a meeting sponsored by the Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Kentucky and Purdue University.

Protecting stored grains from insects, rodents, molds and toxins are necessary to maintain a quality product for sale. Aeration and temperature control are two key factors in keeping grain in optimum condition reducing its chances of potential damage.

Key words for good storage are clean and dry, said Doug Johnson, UK Extension entomologist.

"Basically, about 40 percent of what is harvested never makes it to markets, some of that is because of problems we have with storage," he said.

"For some farmers the bin to them is like home plate -- once you get it there you've accomplished what you've set out to do that year and in some measure you have," Johnson said. "But now, you quite literally have all your eggs in one basket. They are all in one place and on-farm storage is the largest single concentration for food for humans in the world and it is also the single largest concentration of food for everything else. So protecting it in the bin only makes sense."

Kentucky and southern Indiana farmers, like other farmers in the south, have to pay more attention to storage issues than their neighbors to the north. They need to concentrate on temperature, moisture, insects problems all the time, he said.

Cleanliness is important not only in the bin but in everything the grain passes through. Any unclean pieces of equipment in the total production and storage process can result in contamination from insects or other problems.

Outside of bins need to be kept clean as well, or otherwise they can be harbingers of insects and rodents.

Clean grain also helps with proper air flow and reduces the chaff that can hold moisture. Moisture levels needed to maintain good quality vary with the season, said Sam McNeill, UK Extension agricultural engineer. Corn in April and May can be stored at 14 percent while in June through August needs to be maintained at 13 percent. For soybeans, 12 percent works in April or May but needs to be reduced to 11 percent in June and August.

Temperatures are also important and temperature monitors can be placed inside the bins to aid farmers in getting accurate measurements throughout the bin, McNeill said.

The sniff test can go a long way in aiding a person on whether he has mold or other problems in the bin. It is one step in doing regular inspections. Regular inspections are key in making sure the grain inside the bin remains of good quality.

"If you can only remember one thing - store clean, dry grain in clean, dry bins," Johnson said.


Doug Johnson and Sam McNeill, (270) 365-7541