ISU warns farmers about grain storage practices

Sharp differences in crop maturity, weight and moisture content could cause spoilage

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With the uneven quality and maturity in this yearís corn harvest, grain storage management will be critically important, according to a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University.

Charles Hurburgh said producers who donít emphasize good grain storage practices this fall will pay for it in the spring, when they find the corn they harvested is contaminated with unusual levels of mold.

"Farmers need to be prepared to manage wide variability in grain properties this fall," Hurburgh said. "You canít cut corners on good grain management practices or itíll come back to bite you."

The cold and wet spring led to a late start for planting for many Iowa farmers, Hurburgh said. Combine that with the heat wave that withered much of the state late in the growing season, and youíll end up with a crop characterized by inconsistency, he said.

Sharp differences in crop maturity, weight and moisture content create the potential for spoilage once the grain is stored in a bin. Hurburgh said farmers should make sure to their corn is cooled and dried as soon as possible after it is harvested.

"You have to monitor the moisture closely because it may be wetter than you think," Hurburgh said. "If the temperature of the stored grain starts going up, it means you may have a spoilage problem."

As mold spreads through a grain bin, the value of the corn declines. Hurburgh said discounts commonly take effect if more than 5 percent of the corn shows mold.

If the mold spreads to more than 20 percent of the crop, farmers stand to lose dollars per bushel, Hurburgh said.

While loss of value is a serious concern, that's not the only reason for farmers to pay special attention to storage practices, Hurburgh said. Many producers feed the corn they grow to livestock, and moldy grain makes for poor feed.

Hurburgh recommended farmers interested in grain storage guidelines look at the Sept. 23 edition of the ISU Extension and Outreach Integrated Crop Management Newsletter at

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