Keeping grain on the farm in storage past March can be tricky in a normal year. It could be doubly tricky this year in areas which haven't had a run of cool temperatures to allow the grain to be cooled down properly during the winter. That includes a large portion of the central part of the Corn Belt.
If you've still got grain in the bins and you don't smell a problem or suspect a problem, will it do any good to run aeration fans now? That's the question posed to Richard Stroshine, Purdue University Extension corn quality specialist. He and Matt Roberts, another Purdue Extension grain specialist, and Klein Ileleji, a Purdue ag engineer with expertise in storage management, are in the process of issuing recommendations for those who might want to carry corn past this month this year.
"If you can find a time when the air temperature is below the air temperature, then you can run the fans," Stroshine says. "If you're going to keep corn into summer, you would ideally bring the temperature down to 45 or 50 degrees. So you need some air at that temperature for a period long enough to move a cooling front through the bin."
Finding that many days in a row at that air temperature or below has been an issue in many parts of the Midwest all winter long. If you're going to attempt to cool the bin if you get three days, to hold corn longer, the bin should already be cored, meaning a load or so has been removed, and the peak removed, Stroshine says. These actions improve air flow up through the grain mass. You also need a perforated floor in the bin.
One option is to aerate at night when temperatures should be cooler, Ileleji adds. That means taking advantage of cool air in the late evening and early morning. For example, if you catch the right night conditions for several days in a row, you might aerate form 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., he notes.
Make sure you know how much air your fan moves so you know how long it takes to get a cooling front completely through the grain mass. For example, if you have 0.25 cfm per bushel of air flow in fan capacity, it will take about 80 hours, or about 3 days if you can run the fan constantly, to get the front through the grain.