If your corn is not planted yet, it will be soon. But if you’re still storing 2017-crop corn in bins, the crop in the field is only half of the investment you should be monitoring right now. That’s the word from Gary Woodruff, GSI district manager in Indiana and Kentucky and a longtime grain storage specialist.
What makes it even more important to remember that crop still in the bin is that this is the time of year when things can go wrong quickly — especially if grain didn’t go into the bin in perfect condition last fall.
“Spring is one of the times where grain must be watched closely due to the change in temperature and humidity, and the possible grain condition issues that come from that change,” Woodruff says. “The sun also becomes an issue as the stronger solar heating can cause grain on one side of the bin to heat up above the outside temperatures.”
Regular checking of grain to make sure it’s not going out of condition is critical now, he adds. Checking at least every two weeks, but preferably weekly as that’s easier to remember, is the best way to protect the year’s worth of investment that has been put into last year’s crop.
One question that arises is how long you can hold grain into summer. In 2017, many people held old-crop corn into August. Whether that was the right marketing decision is another question. People like Chris Hurt, Purdue University Extension agricultural economist, typically recommend following a marketing plan that ensures you’re not still holding lots of old-crop corn that late in the year.
“Possibly the most important factor in how long and well grain stores is made when it goes into the bin,” Woodruff says. “To safely store corn postharvest through the following spring, moisture content should not exceed 15%. To safely store through fall [of the following year], it should be no higher than 14%, and to store for one year or longer, it must be held at 13%.
“There is no way to extend the safe storage life of grain largely controlled by its moisture once it’s in the bin,” Woodruff says.
There are some things you can do now to help preserve the quality of grain still in the bin. What you can do may depend upon how you’ve managed the grain so far.
“If the peak of the grain wasn’t brought down to below the level of the sidewall, do so now,” Woodruff says. “This promotes airflow through the center of the bin.”
If the grain is still cold, you may leave the grain cold, but only if it will be delivered before June, he adds. That date is fast approaching. Hopefully, if you left the grain cold as temperatures outside warmed up, you made sure to seal fan entrances and the discharge opening to keep warm and humid air out of the bin, he says.