August 23, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

With predictions of record corn and soybean crops and low prices, this year's crop could be a bin buster sending farmers looking for additional storage alternatives.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's August crop report predicts a record U.S. corn crop of 10.369 billion bushels and record soybean production at 2.989 billion bushels. In Kentucky, corn production is expected to be 150.7 million bushels, the largest crop in six years, according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service. Soybeans are predicted to produce 36.7 million bushels.

University of Kentucky Extension agricultural engineers Sam McNeill and Doug Overhults remind farmers who plan to store grain in machinery sheds or silos this fall, to remember some key steps in order to protect grain quality.

Grain that is properly dried, cooled, protected from pests, aerated and inspected regularly will store well with little chance of excess damage and any docking on price when delivered for sale. Clean undamaged grain is best for long-term storage or when less than ideal storage facilities must be used.

Alternative storage structures should be cleaned thoroughly, filled last and emptied first. They also need to be evaluated for strength, capacity, filling and unloading needs and aeration requirements, McNeill said.

Most commercial storage buildings have built-in or add-on packages for providing adequate sidewall strength for grain storage. The Extension Service has plans available for free-standing bulkhead walls up to 6 feet high that can be built from standard lumber and plywood. These can be placed across the exposed end of grain piles or adjacent to existing building walls to provide adequate strength.

Glass-coated steel silos in good structural condition usually have adequate strength but concrete stave or monolithic concrete silos may require additional reinforcement hoops or may only be partially filled. Cover earth floors with plastic or concrete to prevent wetting.

Loading and unloading augers should always be placed in the center of all silos to provide uniform wall load when moving grain. Augers and aeration tubes can often be inserted through the bottom silo doors prior to filling.

Flat storage structures are sometimes filled with a horizontal auger mounted under the roof or by moving a portable auger down the center of the building. Grain vacuum systems, portable augers and front end loaders are often used to unload from flat storage buildings.

Proper aeration is essential for successful grain storage and is the key to maintaining uniform temperatures which control moisture migration and subsequent spoilage of the grain.

Space aeration tubes in flat storage buildings so that equal amounts of grain are ventilated with each tube. A rule of thumb for deep piles is that the tube spacing should not exceed the grain depth, Overhults said. Aeration fans should provide an airflow of 250 cubic feet per minute for each 1,000 bushels of grain in the pile.

The recommended storage moisture content for corn that will be held through June or longer in Kentucky is 13 percent. For soybeans, the moisture content should be 11 percent to store safely through next summer.

Rodent, bird and insect control is usually more difficult in flat storage buildings because of tracked doors along the walls and openings at the eave. Producers must commit themselves to routine pest control practices to minimize grain damage during storage, McNeill said.

Storage cost figures vary widely depending on the type of structure and its original condition. For more information on managing stored grains in bins or alternative structures contact the Cooperative Extension Service.


Sam McNeill, (270) 365-7541 ext. 213; Doug Overhults, (270) 365-7541 ext. 211