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Any Cover Is Better Than No Cover

Saturday, September 15, 2007
filed under: Harvest/Storage

North Dakota State University Extension Engineer Ken Hellevang says he’s getting “tons of questions” this year – and you can probably guess the four-letter word most of those questions are about.

“I’ve never seen a year like this – people putting up bins, putting fans in bins, buying dryers, and it’s all about corn,” he says. Other crops figure into those decisions too, however, including sunflower.

For one thing, make sure you have the right air flow for your particular crop going in the bin. Hellevang is hearing about cases of fan sizes going into new or revised storage facilities that are either not big enough to adequately dry grain, or way more than what’s needed for aeration or cooling down grain.

It’s difficult to give a general prescription for air flow recommendations, since so much depends on bin size and the application of that air flow.

“For years, people have used one horsepower per 1,000 bushels as a rule of thumb for corn drying. But that’s targeted at bins about 18 ft deep. Today we’re looking at bins that might be 25 or 35 ft high, and that 1 hp/1,000 bu. rule of thumb doesn’t apply anymore,” Hellevang says. “Fifty hp in a 50,000 bu. bin, if you’re trying to move that kind of air through 30 some feet of corn, we just don’t have the ability to develop the amount of pressure that’s required to get that air through.”

So be sure to work with your storage facility and fan equipment supplier to be certain you have the right amount of airflow for your bin size and the crops you’re storing. Hellevang adds that as fans have gotten bigger, make sure you have the right power capacity for the electric lines coming in.

Hellevang is concerned about several late-season crops coming off the field at once, pressuring transportation and storage, and resulting in a lot of temporary storage both on-farm and at the elevator. Any storage or cover is better than just piling it on the ground. “I really discourage that. We get an inch or two of rain on that pile and we’ll have a tremendous amount of grain that will be exposed to quality loss.”

If you’re lacking for bin space, consider the alternatives: flat storage in a quonset or machine shed with aeration tubes/ducting in the pile, or renting storage space from a neighbor who might have had hail or drought resulting in unneeded storage capacity. Some farmers use grain storage bags as a temporary solution, filled at the edge of a field as grain is harvested. If forced to temporarily store outside, at least try to choose a site with an elevated grade so that if rain becomes an issue, it drains away from the pile. Use aeration ducting in that outside pile, and try to cover the top of the pile with tarps or some type of protective material.

To help alleviate the crunch of harvesting corn and sunflower at once, consider a desiccant to help dry the sunflower down so that it can be harvested earlier than the corn. This can help avoid November weather conditions, which is generally far less efficient for grain aeration and drying than October conditions. – Tracy Sayler

Some farmers use giant grain bags as a temporary storage solution, filled at the edge of a field as grain is harvested. One family in Kansas, for example, uses silage bags filled at the field edges which is then transported to market later, helping to ease the truck, labor, and storage squeeze at harvest. The bags are nine ft in diameter and about 300 ft long when completely full. Each bag when full holds around 15,000 to 16,000 bu. of sunflower. The crop is unloaded from the combine or grain cart into a bag filling machine that uses a horizontal auger to fill the plastic silage bags like a sausage stuffer. Read more about these storage bags at – click on ‘Sunflower Magazine” then “View archives” and “Harvest/Storage” – see the article “Silage Bag Storage Aids Kansans.”

Grain Handling and Storage Links (keep scrolling down - lots of information here) library (search publications for “grain storage”) (compare cost of harvest losses vs heated air drying, fuel cost comparisons, grain bin and flat storage capacity spreadsheets) (click on ‘agriculture’)

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