With the addition of unique 10,000-bu. plastic storage bags, Jacob Dumler needs three fewer semis and one less grain cart for harvest. And he looks to receive 30-40¢/bu. more for his corn, wheat and sorghum, thanks to a better basis and reduced storage costs.

The Cimarron, KS, grower liked the grain bag system so much that he went all the way to Paris to get it. Well, Paris, TX, about 400 miles away, but certainly a worthwhile trip for a portable and disposable on-farm storage system that enables him to store grain at the field for months if needed — without fear of insect, disease or other storage contamination.

He can market grain when he wants and with much more freedom in choosing an elevator, feedyard, ethanol plant or other buyer. With yields that can blow through 240 bu./acre, another 30¢/bu. can add $80 or more to gross return.

Dumler grows irrigated corn and dryland wheat and sorghum. His father Roger has a separate operation. “We share equipment and were looking for a way to become more efficient with harvesting and marketing,” says Dumler.

“We felt like we were at the point where we were having to wait two to three hours or more in line at the elevator during harvest. That won't work,” he says.

They learned about the grain bag system and found the barely used equipment for sale in Texas. Pooling their resources with cousin Phillip Woods and uncle Rusty, they bought the Richiger Flexi-Grain Storage system.

THEY ALSO ACQUIRED Loftness-made grain bag heavy-duty storage bags that stretch 250 ft. long and hold about 10,000 bu.

“At wheat harvest in June, we saved a lot on labor,” says Dumler. “We also got by with one grain cart and didn't need three trucks (to haul grain to the elevator).”

Dennis Gardisser, consulting agricultural engineer and formerly with University of Arkansas Extension, likes bag storage, depending on a grower's field topography and ability to store at the right moisture level.

“We think it's an excellent short-time storage opportunity,” he says, adding that his research shows how bags can hold grain for several months if moisture remains low.

“We recommend that growers store corn as close to moisture levels needed for the highest value at marketing time, 15-15.5%,” he says. “We've seen a loss of quality when grain is stored at higher moisture levels.”

Dumler uses a Flexi-Grain R-9 unit that costs about $20,000 new. Again, the system basically includes a bagger/loader, plastic bags and an unloader. The Flexi-Grain baggers are an R-9 and larger R-10. They cost about $20,000 or more. The EA-180 and EA-240 unloaders cost about $30,000 or more.

The Loftness grain bags are 9 × 250 ft. with a capacity of about 10,250 bu. of wheat or 10,000 bu. of corn. Empty bag weight is 335 lbs. and cost is about $600 each, says Dave Nelson, Loftness co-owner.

The Flexi-Grain bags are a three-layer polyethylene tube. A single 9-ft.-diameter by 200-ft.-long bag holds about 8,000 bu. A 10-ft. bag holds about 10,000 bu., says George Cooper, a Flexi-Grain regional rep. for Show-Me Shortline, Centralia, MO. “The 9-ft. bags hold 40 bu. to the foot and a 10-ft. bag holds 50 bu. to the foot. Bags are available in 150 ft., 200 ft., 250 ft. and 300 ft.”

The bags are not reusable because the unloader has to cut the bag open along the top as grain is extracted, says Gardisser, although some use old bags as round hay bale covers. They are also recyclable, similar to polypipe used for irrigation.

DUMLER FARMS ON flat land in western Kansas. Bags are situated on high ground with good drainage and no trees or obstacles to cause breakage. Bags can lie on the ground with minimal risk of being punctured or torn.

In a typical harvest, bags are attached to a half-moon-shaped bagger, which is attached to a tractor. When the grain cart or combine fills, it pulls up to the bagger. Grain is dumped into the bagger's container. It's then augered into the bag.

The compression auger compresses grain into the bag and gradually pushes against the bag's walls. The bag handles the resistance, and the appropriate balance of pressure and tension is attained by properly regulating a ground friction brake action on the bagger.

Dumler keeps the tractor in neutral gear with the PTO engaged. The bagger moves as the bag fills. When full, sealing can usually be accomplished by using boards, either 2 × 4s, 1 × 2s or 1 × 4s. “Roll the boards (with the bag between them) a couple of times, then screw them together, then tuck them under the end of the bag to get an airtight seal,” says Gardisser. The seal keeps the well-packed grain dry until it is removed.

When ready to move the grain to a market, the bag is unsealed and attached to the unloader, which winds the bag up as the grain is removed. Grain is then augered onto a semi-truck grain bed. It's at virtually the same moisture count as when it went into the bag, 13-15%. And it's free of insect damage or eggs.

The bags resemble silage storage bags seen at dairies or feedyards. But they're thicker, from 9.3 to 10 mm in thickness to handle grain's weight demands. Even with the thicker material, Gardisser says location of the bags is vital to prevent damage.

“They need to be placed in a well-prepared area,” he says, “free from any stubble or other materials that can poke holes in the bags. They should also be free of any organic material that can lead to rodent problems. Some growers have even used low-lying electric fencing to keep all animals out.”

Proper drainage is also essential. “You don't want the bag to be a 250-ft.-long dike that will hold water and create the potential for contamination,” he says.

Gardisser says growers can store corn, soybeans, wheat and other grains to escape having to sell grain when the pipeline is full and prices are pressured. Dumler likes the marketing flexibility the bags provide.

“We figure it costs us 6-7¢/bu. to store the grain in this system,” he says. “That compares to about 30¢/bu. to haul it, then store it at the elevator. And by not having to sell at harvest, we hope to make an extra 30-40¢/bu. (over the harvest price).”

The added price helps the Dumlers increase revenue without adding more land. “We looked at improving our margins through buying or renting more land or increasing our ability to market at a higher price,” he says. “So far, the advantages of using the grain bag system have prevented the need for more production.”

Gardisser says some growers with the bag storage systems wonder what to charge their neighbors to custom-store grain for them. “We've had reports of about 40¢/bu.,” he says. “Fifteen to 20¢ to put it in the bags, then 10¢ to take it out, and about 10¢ for the bag itself.”

For that cost, growers would be about as well off buying their own system. “The premium (higher prices) growers may receive for holding grain even 60-90 days could easily pay for the system in one year,” says Gardisser.

For more information, go to Grain Bag Storage Systems or Flexi-Grain Storage.