August 23, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

With this year’s state corn crop forecast to be the third largest on record, farmers may need to find extra storage in order to reap their best price potential.

Selling at harvest often results in lower prices than can be achieved later in the year. Holding corn until January may mean as much as $1 more per bushel in some areas, providing an incentive for farmers to consider adding storage.

Farmers can utilize existing farm buildings for temporary storage. Many commercial buildings come with add-on kits for grain storage and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture can provide plans to shore up buildings for temporary storage as well, said Sam McNeill, UK Extension agricultural engineer.

“It’s still not as good as storing it in a metal bin because it’s got tremendous exposure to rodents and birds,” he said.

Farmers need to carefully manage grain stored in on-farm buildings, commonly called flat storage, to keep it in top condition. Figuring out storage capacity, air flow, grain handling and reinforcing walls are the main points to flat storage, he said.

McNeill has a calculator that uses building size to estimate the height of the pile and the number of bushels that can be stored. Storage capacity also depends on whether the grain can be stacked against walls.

A 40-foot-by-60-foot building with reinforced walls capable of 4-foot vertical storage can hold 13,000 bushels, meaning a potential $13,000 additional income. Reinforcements can be done using 6-by-6 posts about 8 feet apart and 2-by-4s on edge every 2 feet 8 inches apart, similar to wall studs in a home, with 3/4-inch plywood against that. Four feet is a good, economical height. Another option would be to place bin rings inside a building. Rings won’t need reinforcing but will need aeration.

“One thing a farmer must do to help protect grain quality is to install an aeration system with tubes and fans,” he said.

Aeration ducts and fans should be put in before grain is placed in the building. On a large pile, ducts should be about 5 feet short of the end of the pile and the first 5 feet on the fan side needs to be a solid duct to obtain good distribution of airflow through the pile. The size and number of ducts needed depends on the size of the grain pile. 

“Generally, it is better to force air up through the pile if it is in a building,” said McNeill. “If it is stored outside with a soft, tarp cover it is better to suck air through it because it holds the tarp down as well.”

Though outside storage is an option, losses tend to be greater than with inside storage. Kentucky’s humid weather is not as conducive to outside storage commonly used in more arid climates such as Kansas and Nebraska, said Chad Lee, UK Extension grain crops specialist.

Lee said farmers using outside storage, should try to limit storage time in order to minimize quality damage. Grain sustaining too much damage can offset any price advantage reaped from holding it for higher prices.

Grain going into flat storage needs to be as dry and cool as possible to maintain quality, McNeill said. If corn is above 14 percent moisture, it will require drying then cooling before being placed in the building.

“You want to put the driest corn you have, and you’d really like to have it cleaned first because in moving it you are going to create more cracks and fines,” he said. “In terms of handling, you want it to be the last storage you fill and the first one you empty.”

“There’s almost always some spoilage (using temporary storage),” Lee said. “This must be part of the consideration and farmers may need to adjust their calculations depending on their own experience.”

Flat storage takes more steps and needs to be watched more closely than grain stored in bins, but the monetary incentives are there to do it, McNeill said.

Calculators and storage options are available on the biosystems and agricultural engineering department’s Web site.


Sam McNeill, 270-365-7541, ext. 213, Chad Lee, 859-257-3203