Grain needs to be checked regularly, preferably at least every two weeks, through the winter so that a problem can be detected before it becomes a disaster to deal with. Below are some tips to help manage stored grain during the winter:
- Turn on the fans while someone else waits at the roof access door to smell the first flush of air that moves through the grain. Musty or sour smells indicate mold growth. To get an earlier indication of mold growth, use a handheld CO2 monitor to check for rising CO2 levels coming off of the grain.
- Poor quality grain, which includes low test weight grain or damaged grain with broken kernels or a high percentage of fines, is difficult to store, and needs to be checked more frequently through the winter. Have a plan for that grain and move it as soon as possible to avoid development of problems.
- Store your dry grain between 30-40 degrees F for winter storage. Cooling the grain below 30 degrees isn’t recommended, as it brings the possibility of frozen grain chunks during unloading.
- Remember that the cooling front moves up through the grain as fans push cool air up through the bin floor or ducts. Don’t turn off the fans until the cooling cycle is complete and the grain at the top of the bin is cooled. Fans designed for aeration can take up to a week to complete a cooling cycle, while larger fans sized for natural air drying may take less than a day. Find more information on aeration here.
- Aeration should also be done routinely throughout the winter to maintain cool and even temperatures in the bin. Uneven temperatures in the grain bin can occur when the grain mass isn’t cool enough going into winter, resulting in cooler grain along the bin walls and warmer grain in the core. This temperature difference can cause convection currents that deposit moisture on the grain surface, causing spoilage and crusting. Other reasons for uneven temperatures in the bin include solar heating of grain under the roof and along the bin walls, as well as heating from insect and mold activity. Level the grain surface to improve aeration and prevent issues caused by accumulated fines by spreading grain or coring the bin.
- When monitoring grain, always use a lock-out tag-out system so unloading equipment isn’t turned on while someone is inside the bin. Use the buddy system anytime you enter a bin and use a life harness when available. If crusted grain is stuck on the surface or along the bin walls, always prod grain from above the grain to avoid being buried when grain is released. Use extreme caution around spoiled grain, as tragic accidents are more common when grain is spoiled and doesn’t flow as easily out of the bin.
For more information on grain storage and management, visit the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative’s grain storage resources page.