Often, when farmers turn their attention to what’s next in the crop cycle, issues from last season pop up. Harvested grain that has been stored may begin to experience quality control problems. That’s why it’s important to monitor grain seasonally to keep it in top condition.
Maybe circumstances forced farmers to store grain that’s too wet during harvest. Maybe over-drying left an abundance of fines that created the perfect breeding ground for molds and insects deep inside bins.
Whatever the problem may be, without proper monitoring, grain can rapidly deteriorate and become a worthless mass. Since grain spoilage can be a result of any number of problems annually, it’s imperative to monitor grain seasonally.
Changing outdoor temperatures throughout the year can make maintaining constant ideal temperature and moisture content of stored grain a challenge. So, what are best practices for monitoring your stored grain year-round? Well, the easiest is to make a plan to monitor grain seasonally and stick to it.
Make GrainTrac Part of Your Temperature Monitoring Plan
Did you know that grain is a great natural insulator? However, climatic and seasonal conditions can still affect your stored grain. Grain managers can use the insulation properties of grain to advantage, but first you need to know what’s going on inside the bins. Then you can solve problems with coring, aeration, moving grain, or other solutions.
GrainTrac is a grain monitoring system that works by installing cables with temperature sensors on them inside your bins. These cables hang from the top of the bin, the length and number determined by the bin size. Each sensor captures the temperature of the air surrounding grain within a radius of a few feet.
The data is then collected and sent to you where you can get an accurate readout for the entire bin from your computer or smartphone. You can then make decisions from the collected data to determine if there are any problem areas inside the bin. From there, you’ll decide what actions should be taken to mitigate the problem.
Problem Readings vs. Normal Readings
The beauty of GrainTrac is that it is monitoring your grain bins and measuring temperature 24/7. So, you decide how often you want to check the data. Obviously, if you find a problem, you’ll want to check back in real time as you take action to make corrections. You may check your grain temperature several times a day under these circumstances.
But what about if all the sensors are reporting back positive data? How often do you need to check then? Here are some basic guidelines from grain storage experts on how often to check on the temperature of your stored grain each season.
Know How Often to Monitor Grain Seasonally
Set your grain temperature monitoring schedule to once every two weeks for summer if all is going well. You want your summer grain as close to 60 degrees as possible. Any higher and you start to risk insect infestation.
The summer sun on the bin roof heats the top of the bin. To help summer grain stay cool, keep the space at the top of the bin between the grain and roof ventilated. You can do this either with openings near the eave and near the peak that act as vents, or with a thermostat-controlled roof exhaust fan.
This natural venting may not be enough, so you’ll need to run your aeration fans about once every three weeks. Only run fans for a couple hours and only on a cool evening or cool morning. Otherwise, you run the risk of heating the grain at the bottom of your bin. Always keep aeration fans covered when not in use or you’ll invite hot air into the bin.
During winter, there are three ‘musts’ for grain storage: properly cool grain, monitor regularly, and core bins. Most out-of-condition grain is the result of storing too warm during winter.
The ideal temperature for stored grain in winter is 35 degrees. At this temperature insect activity and mold growth stop. Cool grain to this temperature on days where there is no precipitation and the outdoor temps are 10 to 15 degrees colder than the grain temperature. Depending on bin size, it shouldn’t take more than one to four days.
The most vulnerable part of the stored grain is the center where grain fines impair the flow of air. Coring your bins will remove 90 percent of the fines. Core bins reducing the grain peak to the same grain level at the outside wall.
Monitor grain bins a minimum of every two weeks. Make sure you have a high-quality cable monitoring system to monitor the temperature of the entire bin. It can help you catch the hot spots in your stored grain before it becomes a problem.
Spring temperatures are notoriously unpredictable. This makes it particularly important to monitor grain temperature in the spring season. The gold standard is to check your stored grain every week during the spring months.
Because of the angle of the sun, the grain on the south wall of the bin is particularly vulnerable to heating up and spoiling – even more so than during summer. Start by making sure your cables are positioned to monitor this volatile area so grain stays cooler than the outside temperature.
In March and April, aim for 30 degrees if you farm in the North, and under 40 if you farm in the South. Utilize your aeration fans at night when temperatures are near 30 degrees if you need to cool your grain. Be sure fans are covered when not in use.
The key to fall grain storage is making sure to dry newly harvested grain to acceptable moisture content levels. For example, grain with 17% moisture content can be stored at 40 degrees for up to 280 days. The lower the moisture content, the longer the storage time.
As the temperature starts to drop, you need to make sure that your grains are sufficiently dry. Monitor the temperature of stored grain weekly during the fall. Regular temperature monitoring helps detect and reduce moisture migration.
Get Help with Your Stored Grain from the Experts
When you know how to monitor and maintain grain temperature, it protects your crops while providing you with higher return on your investment. Rely on efficient tools such as GrainTrac’s grain and crop quality management system from Tri-States Grain Conditioning to check the grain quality.
Call us at 1 800 438 8367 to learn more about grain temperature monitoring and Smart Farming.