Gearing up to store next crop

Gearing up to store next crop

Properly preparing storage facilities now can eliminate reduction in grain quality during storage.

A DELAY in planting and cool temperatures may mean that crops in key growing states will be harvested late and probably wet. Also, with lower commodity prices, farmers are more likely to store this year's crop.

Damage to stored grain from insect infestation or mold can be costly for both grain facilities and farmers. Properly preparing grain bins now for storing the upcoming harvest can protect the quality and economic value of the grain.


Grain storage prep

According to The Ohio State University Extension, sanitation is the key to preventing an insect infection or outbreak of mold in stored grain.

All grain handling equipment should be examined, cleaned and repaired prior to the start of the harvest season.

The new crop could be contaminated by a trace amount of moldy and/or insect-infested old grain lingering in equipment that's used for harvesting, transporting and handling the grain.

The cleanliness of the grain bin structure is essential to grain quality since the grain remains in contact with the bin for the greatest length of time. Again, old grain and grain dust must be removed from all cracks and crevices, fans, aeration ducts, exhausts and slotted floors.

It is important to carefully inspect for deterioration or holes that would be easily accessible to insects, birds or rodents.

Any related equipment, including electrical systems, fans, bearings and belts, should also be checked. Once cleaning and repairs are completed, it is recommended to properly apply appropriate insecticide by the label.


Handling wet grain

The shelf life of grain, like any food product, is determined by moisture content and temperature.

It is important to cool grain quickly and not to store wet grain without proper aeration. For example, wet corn should have 0.2 cfm/bu. of well-distributed aeration — double the normal rates for dry corn, according to Iowa State University.

Grain should be stored at 13% moisture, and if harvested wet, it should be dried down within two days.

Fungi can grow rapidly on corn with a moisture level above 20%. The two fungi that generate the most contamination concerns in stored grain, Aspergillus and Penicillium, invade grain at a 70-90% relative humidity range and produce mycotoxins that can be toxic to animals.

Properly aerating bins will prevent grain mold and mycotoxins in storage.


Inspect fields

Late planting, more moisture and temperature swings could mean that mycotoxins may be present in 2013 crops. Scouting fields now for mycotoxins could help prepare grain handlers to better manage the contaminated crop. Mycotoxin-contaminated grain should be dried to 13% moisture within 24-48 hours of harvest to stabilize the mold growth, but the mycotoxin present will remain.

In all stored grain, new mold growth will increase with temperature and moisture. Therefore, it is important to keep grain at a temperature of 50°F or less.


Frost damage

Harvesting late can increase the possibility of frost-damaged grain. Freeze-damaged grain will have uneven harvest moisture and could be slow and expensive to dry. The shelf life is half as long as normal harvested corn due to the increase in chaff, fines and broken kernels, which could lead to greater risk of mold growth.


Reducing hazards

Stored grain should be routinely checked for spoilage once a week in the fall and spring and every two weeks in the winter. However, routine inspection can also increase the risk of entrapment when a person decides to enter a bin to check on the grain.

Grain entrapment is not a rare occurrence. In 2010, Purdue University reported the highest number of workers engulfed by grain in bins: 51 incidences, 26 of which resulted in deaths (Feedstuffs, July 1).

As a result, in 2011, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration sent notification to all grain storage facilities warning employers that workers should not be allowed to enter grain storage facilities without the proper equipment and training (Table).

Most grain engulfment incidences occur when workers or farmers decided to walk the grain, usually to determine why grain has stopped flowing during bin unloading.

As grain is unloading, it creates an inverted cone inside the bin. If a crust, formed by mold and condensation near the top level of the grain, is present, a gap between the crust and the flowing grain will not be detectible. When grain quits flowing, farmers or grain facility workers may automatically begin walking the grain and can fall into the empty space, thus getting buried as grain falls in around them.

Howgan SSC of Marshalltown, Iowa, is hoping to prevent injuries and deaths from grain engulfment with new software and technology that allows workers and farmers to monitor stored grain without entering the bin.

The installed Howgan technology can stream constant data from inside the bin to a monitor in the control room. As the technology feeds the moisture and temperature information to the software, it can either trigger alerts or turn on fans, depending on user settings. All information is sent over the internet, allowing the data to be viewed by a remote office or smartphone.

Other low-tech devices are available by bin manufacturers like Sukup Manufacturing Co. that can break up the grain crust by turning an external crank that whips around a chain-covered pipe inside the bin.

Some grain handling facilities have adopted no-entry policies, which increase the demand for emerging technologies to properly monitor stored grain.

Still, using sound safety practices and properly training individuals who monitor or handle grain in the bin is the best way to stop future deaths or injuries from grain engulfment.


In order to reduce the risk for grain handling facilities workers, OSHA requires employers to follow established, commonsense safety practices

When workers enter storage bins, employers must:

1. Turn off and lock out all powered equipment associated with the bin, including augers used to help move the grain, so that the grain is not being emptied or moving out of or into the bin. Standing on moving grain is deadly; the grain can act like quicksand and bury a worker in seconds. Moving grain out of a bin while a worker is in the bin creates a suction that can pull the workers into the grain in seconds.

2. Prohibit walking down grain and similar practices where an employee walks on grain to make it flow.

3. Provide all employees with a body harness with a lifeline or a boatswains chair, and ensure that it is secured prior to the employee entering the bin.

4. Station an observer outside the bin or silo being entered by an employee. Ensure that the observer is equipped to provide assistance and that his or her only task is to continuously track the employee in the bin. Prohibit workers from entering bins or silos underneath a bridging condition or where a buildup of grain products on the sides could fall and bury them.

5. Train all workers for the specific hazardous work operations they are to perform when entering and working inside of grain bins.

6. Test the air within a bin or silo prior to entry for the presence of combustible and toxic gases and to determine if there is sufficient oxygen.

7. If detected by testing, vent hazardous atmospheres to ensure that combustible and toxic gas levels are reduced to nonhazardous levels and that sufficient oxygen levels are maintained.

8. Ensure that a permit is issued for each instance a worker enters a bin or silo, certifying that the precautions listed above have been implemented.

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration.


Volume:85 Issue:35

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