Early Harvest Will Require More Attention to Aeration

Expect that you will need more cycles to cool grain for winter storage.

Corn was delivered to local elevators in south-central and southern Indiana last week. Odds are some of it wound up in farmer bins, too. Temperatures last week were into the 90's at least part of the time. That's not normal corn-binning weather that many Indiana farmers are accustomed to dealing with. Thus, there are some important points to keep in mind about aerating to keep grain in condition this fall, says Dirk Maier, Purdue University grain storage specialist.

"It probably means that you're going to complete more aeration cycles this fall to get the grain down to 30 degrees or so by December," he says. "Turn fans on and let them run until the cooling front moves through the grain. Then come back and repeat the cycle. Each time, you will reduce the temperature inside the grain, as temperatures outside finally drop this fall.

"You certainly can't just aerate the bin once, shut the fans off and walk away. You're going to continue to monitor bin temperature. But it also wouldn't make sense just to start the fans now and let them run non-stop until December,' he says.

How will you know when the cooling front reaches the top of the grain mass, completing that cycle? Some bins have temperature sensors that will help you gauge how the front moves up through the pile, he notes. Even a method as crude as sticking a steel rod down into the top of the pile a couple of feet, then feeling it to see if the grain underneath is cool, or if the rod is hot, can yield valuable information.

Typical aeration cycles may take three to four weeks to drop the temperature in the grain pile inside the bin by 10 to 15 degrees F, Maier notes. He expects this will definitely be a fall when multiple aeration cycles for each bin will help.

If you can get grain down into the 30s temperature wise by December, and moisture is around 15%, you should be able to take that grain into next spring and summer without problems, the grain specialist notes. Holding grain longer on the farm is now more likely, since many of you are either contracting to deliver to an ethanol plant, or growing identity preserved corn for starch or food markets. Companies often call for deliveries for those products at certain times during the year.

The key to avoiding grain bin accidents, such as suffocation because someone was in the bin trying to free a clog with the auger running, is keeping grain in good shape in the first place, he notes. Modern technology, such as aeration controller that automatically controls aerations fans and maintains a constant moisture level, may be worth a look this fall.

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