Wish list for best grain storage

What would grain experts like to see you do to reduce grain storage issues?

Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension ag engineer, says No. 1 on his wish list would be more temperature cables in grain bins. “They would improve the farmer’s ability to measure and monitor the grain mass temperature,” he says.

How many cables you need per bin is a long-raging debate. At a minimum, Hellevang at least would put a cable near the center; another on the south side of the bin; and another on the east, west or north side.

Key Points

Install as many temperature cables as possible to monitor grain trends.

Consider a fan in the peak of the bin for extra ventilation.

Be cautious if you’re bringing frozen or very cold grain into spring.


The problem, the specialist says, is that cables will only be able to detect the temperature of corn within 1 to 2 feet. If the hot spot is outside the zone where the temperature sensors are placed, it could go undetected.

So it’s good to have as many temperature sensors as you can, Hellevang says. “They still provide information on temperature trends within a bin,” he says.

Peak ventilation

Coming in second on Charles Hurburgh’s wish list after his first choice, also a good monitoring system, would be extra roof ventilation vents and perhaps a ventilation fan. Hurburgh is professor of ag engineering at Iowa State University. His wish especially comes into play if you store grain very cold, or allow it to freeze during winter and then hold it into spring.

Freezing is not recommended in some states, including Indiana. However, it’s more common in Western states, including Iowa and North and South Dakota.

The problem comes when the temperature warms up outside and condensation forms, dripping water onto grain.

The solution is picking days when it’s warm outside, but when the grain is still cold, and moving air under the bin roof and out the exhaust. Ventilation doesn’t allow the buildup of moisture to create condensation.

So do you need a fan up there? Vents work fine if the fan at the bottom of the bin is running, Hurburgh says. But if it’s not necessary, or counterproductive, to run an aeration fan, the vents will do very little.

That’s when a fan in the peak would come in handy, he says. Bin companies that offer these fans can provide recommended horsepower, based on the volume of the peak. “It’s important to follow those recommendations for properly sizing the fans,” he concludes.

Tom J. Bechman, Rod Swoboda, Lon Tonneson and Tim White contributed to this story.

Stay safe when emptying bins

Heinz Reisser, Coshocton, Ohio, uses a regular floor sweep to clean out his bins. However, he has assembled the auger to be put on the bin floor before filling the bin. The key is to cover the motor so it won’t be crushed and angle the auger so it won’t be bent. The auger is attached to a cable so it can be winched down into the bin easily.

“It saves me time and makes cleaning out the bin a one-man job,” he says.


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Efficient and safe: This auger setup on Heinz Reisser’s farm makes emptying bins safer and easier.

This article published in the March, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.