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Grain storage maintenance often overlooked

Grain bins located in central Iowa


Farming today is one part capital, one part labor and roughly ten parts technology. The difference in modern farming compared to pre-1960 is the addition of technologies to improve seed, fertility, machinery and storage.

Today I focus on storage. Driving across central Iowa often, specifically on Highway 14, I notice there are about 30 old round bins of about three to five-thousand bushels lined up near the headquarters of Beck’s Hybrids, formerly Ottely Seed Company. The bins are a landmark because we see so few of them today. Everyone is building much bigger bins, from 50 to 300-thousand bushels, and putting in an elevator leg, dryer and load in/load out platform.

But, Iowa State claims farmers do not do a good enough job monitoring grain once it is in the bin. GSI conditioning applications manager Gary Woodruff says it is recommended that farmers monitor their grain storage system and rate its performance once the season’s over.

“By evaluating how their grain system handles the harvest season, farmers can determine what improvements may be needed to prepare for next year,” Woodruff said. “For example, how well did grain handling equipment handle the grain? If bottlenecks were experienced, consider adding higher capacity equipment for next season. Grain drying is another key factor. Ideally, grain should be dried the same day it is harvested. If wet grain remains in the hopper tank longer than one day, you may need more drying capacity the next season to protect grain quality.”

Woodruff says grain storage capacity and basic maintenance are also critical.

“Hauling grain to an elevator not only entails storage cost, but also involves transportation – that may take time away from harvest. Grain bins and dryers should be thoroughly clean of debris as soon as they are emptied and the entire storage system inspected, so that all equipment will be ready for next season. Other common maintenance needs include: replacing worn motors and belts, damaged downspouts, noising gearboxes, worn flights on augers and oil leaks,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff suggests farmers should take care of possible safety improvements during the off-season.