Heavy rain, late planting and cool weather have more implications for a grain crop than just yield potential.
They also lead to higher harvest moisture and more fines in the grain that make grain condition problems more likely. One of the most overlooked problems with moisture is its effect on grain storage and farmers' safety.
There is a direct correlation between out-of-condition grain and an increased risk of grain entrapment, according to studies by the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University.
Grain bin incidents and deaths continue to occur because of failure to follow storage precautions. Several groups, including Grain Systems, Inc. and the Safety and Technical Rescue Association, are coming together to educate farmers and change the way grain safety is viewed.
Grain Safety Begins at Harvest
Drying grain correctly helps prevent kernels from sticking together inside bins or to the bin itself.
The key to proper grain maintenance is to only put grain in a bin at the proper moisture level—at 15% or lower—and to properly aerate the grain to keep it in condition. Grain wetter than 15% or not properly aerated, can see rot and mold issues, creating walls of standing grain or crust that won't easily flow out of the bin.
Bill Field, professor in agriculture/biological engineering at Purdue, recommends controlling additional factors that can damage grain, including roof leaks and birds' nesting, which can spread droppings that result in surface crusting. Additionally, Field and his colleagues suggest "coring," or removing insects and grain fines at the bin's core, for use as animal feed.
GSI's product safety and litigation manager, Jeff Decker, explains why preventing out-of-condition grain can be a matter of life or death.
"If grain flow is reduced, many use the (illegal) practice of walking down the grain by entering the bin and stepping on it to create movement," Decker says. "It takes less than 5 seconds for an average-sized male to become engulfed and not be able to escape alone."
Preparation is Vital
Bill Harp from SATRA says, "Grain rescue situations are as much about prevention as they are about rescue."
Being prepared for grain entrapment is essential. By the time a person is waist deep in grain, human intervention is no longer an option.
Harp adds, "Not only is grain problematic, the atmospheric pressure inside bins is often too high for humans to handle for extended periods of time."
Specific equipment, such as GSI's Res-Q Tube, needs to be used to remove the grain from around the person, rather than the person from the grain. Entering a bin without proper knowledge of the environment or how to use the equipment can be harmful to even the most experienced farmers.
GSI has partnered with SATRA to organize training sessions and make grain bin safety easier across the Midwest. They teach people what it is like to be the victim and the rescuer in a grain bin engulfment situation.
For more information on the GSI RES-Q Tube and/or to schedule training in your area, visit www.grainsystems.com/safety/resqtrainer.php.