Grain Lacks Quality, Farmers Haul Grain

Posted: March 18, 2020

Last year’s crop continues to plaque farmers with grain storage problems at area farms.

Farmers put grain in their storage bins last fall dealing with higher than normal moisture levels, partly because of the late maturing crop and lack of in-field drying.

Vickie Hernan-Faivre monitors the grain being stored at JP Faivre Farms from a control panel. She emphatically warns their farm employees to “stay out of the bins.”  Sensors on the bins allow her to check grain temperature and quality conditions.

“It’s not good,” said Vickie Hernan-Faivre. “As a matter of fact it’s one of the worst quality crops I’ve seen.” Vickie has been overseeing grain storage operations for more than two decades at JP Faivre Farms in rural DeKalb.

Their field corn was harvested at 21-34% moisture from October to December and then dried to 15% before being stored in their grain bins.

Josh Faivre, agronomy manager for the farm, indicated that not only was it a wet crop but it had “high foreign matter, kernels were damaged and partially ground up during harvest.” Even though they made some in-field combine adjustments, he stated, “The corn was partially ground up coming out of the field.” 

So right out of the field the quality of grain was not what DeKalb County farmers were used to producing. Then when the grain was dried, to avoid spoilage in storage bins, “it became pulverized,” said Vickie.

Farmers are hauling their stored grain to elevators to avoid grain going out of condition, based on lower quality grain from last year’s harvest. Here, one of the Faivre Farms trucks is being loaded with grain and transported to the ethanol plant in Rochelle

Farmers that have on-farm grain storage must check their bins regularly in order to avoid having grain go out of condition. To do so, it requires farmers to aerate, using built-in fans, to keep the grain cool. Maintaining adequate grain temperatures (35-40 degrees in winter) is the best defense against spoilage in bins.

According to Josh, three quick signs that grain is going out of condition are: “1. Grain smells moldy, 2. Grain is hot or sticky and 3. Grain has insects in it.”

Many farmers are removing grain from their bins and hauling it to a commercial elevator in order to avoid grain going out of condition. The Faivres have already transported about one-third of their stored crop to the ethanol plant in Rochelle. Realizing that low-quality grain has a shorter allowable storage time, their goal is to have most of their grain hauled out of their bins by spring.

As trucks were being loaded, Josh noted that the lower quality corn produced more dust this year because of fines and foreign matter. The corn also lacked in color – typically it is more golden but last year’s corn has a whiter look to it.

What’s happening in grain bins?

Out of condition grain is causing problems in grain bins. It can form a hard crusted layer of spoiled grain across the surface. This seemingly sturdy surface may actually be a dangerous bridge hiding on an open cavity of air below.

Grain can also stick to the vertical sidewall of a bin. Heavy chunks of crusted grain can cause traumatic injuries or release an avalanche of grain.

Columns of grain may form throughout the bin and can be troublesome for unloading grain.

Out of condition grain is the main reason for grain bin entrapments. When chunks of spoiled grain clog conveyors and augers, it’s natural to want to go in and unclog them. Farmers who enter bins to resolve grain quality problems can become entrapped and submerged in grain. Keeping grain in condition prevents entrapment and saves lives.