October rains and snow have been causing significant corn harvest delays for much of the Midwest. In addition to frost damage to some fields, higher-than-normal moisture levels are threatening to add to both costs and potential headaches at harvest.
To help farmers cope with 2009’s high-moisture, late-harvested corn crop, Dirk Maier, Kansas State University Extension engineer provides the following five corn storage tips:
1. Test Fire Drying Systems. “Number one, make sure your drying systems are well-maintained, up-to-date and ready to go,” advises Maier. “Prior to harvest, test fire the dryer to see if everything is working okay. The last thing you want is to have your dryer break down when you’re in the middle of harvest.”
For more information on grain dryer maintenance and inspections go to Grain Quality Task Force.
2. Plan Your Harvest Sequence. Having a good harvest plan in place can help to reduce costs and delays at harvest, says Maier. “Know the maturity level, moisture content and quality of the crop in each field before harvest,” he advises. “If you can keep your corn segregated – based on maturity, moisture and quality – throughout the drying system and inside your storage bins, you’ll increase your marketing flexibility for the rest of the year.”
To read more on harvest, drying and storage tips for high-moisture and frost-damaged corn, click here: http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/GQ/GQ-27.html.
3. Create Dry Corn Hoppers. “A dryer can easily become the bottleneck at harvest if there is insufficient wet holding capacity,” says Maier. “To increase wet-holding capacity, consider converting flat-bottom bins into wet holding bins by creating a dry-corn inverted hopper cone.”
A dry corn hopper is very cost-effective, points out Maier. “You just add dry corn to the first several feet of an empty bin and draw it back out until gravity flow stops, which will leave you with a hopper-like cone,” he says. “Then you put wet corn in, draw it out and transfer it into the dryer without having to clean out the bin entirely.”
To read more about ways to eliminate bottlenecks at harvest, go to Corn & Soybean Digest.
4. Increase Dryer Capacity. Purchasing a larger-capacity dryer is one solution to speed up corn harvest. Another is being more efficient with the dryer that you already have by using several wet holding bins.
“Rather than dry corn to 14-15% moisture for storage, consider increasing your dryer capacity by transferring hot corn into holding bins at 16-17% moisture and steep it for six to 12 hours,” says Maier. “With adequate airflow (0.75-1 cfm/bu.), fans can cool the grain and remove 1-2 points of moisture, which can increase dryer capacity by up to 30% and reduce energy costs by 10-25%.”
For winter storage, 15-16% moisture corn will store fine, notes Maier. For storage into summer months, farmers will need to bring moisture levels down to 14%, he adds.
For more information on optimizing grain drying operations, go to the fact sheet.
5. Inspect Bins Often. After placing grain into storage bins, farmers should run aeration fans to cool the grain into the low-30° F range by mid-December, if possible, says Maier. Farmers should also regularly check bin tops for moisture and mold, he adds.
“During winter storage, inspect grain at least every other week – ideally by checking your temperature cables,” he says. “Also keep an eye out for signs of grain spoilage and moisture condensation.”
Harvesting high-moisture corn typically results in more fines, kernel breakage and screens than when harvesting corn that has dried down to moisture levels that allow for storage with little or no drying, he points out. “The best way to handle screenings is the process of ‘coring’ the bins,” says Maier. “This process involves leveling the surface on top of the bin by unloading grain until the peaks are removed,” he says. “Unloading some grain also removes many of the fines, which tend to be concentrated in the bin’s center.”
For more information on grain bin management, click here: http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/abeng/postharvest.htm or here: http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/grainlab/.