Consider Pros, Cons of Alternative Grain Storage Methods

by: Source: Chris Bruynis, OSU Extension Ross County

Farmers are faced with making some tough decisions this fall going into harvest. I am hearing there are large quantities of 2017’s crop still in storage in the local elevators which could lead to limited hours and inadequate storage for the 2018 large crop that is being harvested. Also there are pricing and basis concerns which clearly favor keeping the grain on the farm. These issues are making farmers scramble to find storage options and find them quick.

Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural engineer offers some advice that we need to think about when making this decision.  The important point is that all storage options should keep the grain dry and provide adequate aeration to control grain temperature. Grain must be dry and cool (near the average outdoor temperature) when placed in alternative storage facilities because providing adequate, uniform airflow to dry grain or cool grain coming from a dryer is not feasible.

Also farmers need to think about the structural issues of the building. Grain pushing against walls can damage buildings not built for grain storage. The wall must be anchored securely, and its structural members must be strong enough to transfer the force to the building poles or support structure without breaking or excessive bending. He suggests hiring an engineer to complete a structural analysis and follow the recommendations to reinforce the structure. The last thing farmers need is structural failure where we lose the grain and the structure.

Other option beside existing buildings could include poly bags, but it does not prevent mold growth in damp grain or insect infestations. Place grain in the bag at recommended storage moisture contents based on grain and outdoor temperatures during the potential storage period. Heating will occur if the grain exceeds a safe storage moisture content and it cannot be aerated to control heating. The average temperature of dry grain will follow the average outdoor temperature. If considering this option, select an elevated, well-drained site for the storage bags. Run the bags north and south so solar heating is similar on both sides. Sunshine on just one side heats that side, which can lead to moisture accumulation in the grain and spoilage on the cool side.

Grain covers over a pile could be an option as well, but site preparation might be costly. A combination of restraining straps and suction from the aeration system, when designed correctly, holds grain covers in place. This system can also provide adequate airflow through the grain to control grain temperature. Place perforated ducts on the grain under the cover to provide a controlled air intake for the aeration system and airflow near the cover to minimize condensation problems under the cover. Place properly sized and spaced ducts under the pile on the ground to pull air through the grain. Some storage options use a perforated wall for the air inlet.

For additional information and building specifications on alternative storage option go to

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