With the current war in Ukraine placing a substantial strain on the world’s existing grain supply, it is more important than ever to ensure that farmers avoid stock losses.

Greg Trame, director of technology sales for GSI Grain Systems, spoke with Country Folks about grain spoilage.

Can you tell us a bit about the dangers of grain spoilage? What are the contributing factors?

It takes a lot of work to get a crop in. And a lot of money. Which is why protecting grain quality is so vital for every farm operation. High quality grain means less dockage at the elevator and more money for your bushels. And with proper drying, handling and storage, your grain can see its full potential.

Most grain quality issues happen after corn has been harvested. Not drying appropriately is the most significant factor in corn grain quality, but poor handling can lead to concentrated fines and broken grain. These factors all play into the marketability of your crop.

What are the signs of grain spoilage? What should farmers be looking for?

Any signs of crusting could mean grain spoilage. Spoilage can also be detected by smell.

What are the best practices for removing spoiled grain?

If grain crusting is present, but in a small amount, blending that off may solve the issue. However, it’s hard to know how far down the problem goes. If you can’t get it under control, it’s important to move that grain out of the bin and market it as quickly as possible, even though it may receive a docking at sale. The bigger problem is leaving out of condition grain in the bin, which can cause clogging during unloading and lead to a series of unsafe events.

What are your recommended steps to prevent grain spoilage?

As soon as possible after harvest, pull peaked grain down so the center is just below the corn at the bin wall. The grain will look somewhat like an “M” from the side, promoting air movement in the center.

Every week, climb safely to the top of the bin and – while not entering to avoid the risk of entrapment – visually inspect the top layer of grain and around the interior wall. Any signs of crusting could mean grain spoilage. Spoilage can also be detected by smell. If you see or smell something you don’t like, it’s important to get aeration fans going to let in fresh air and equalize the bin and outdoor temperatures.

Use automated bin monitoring tools. Farmers are busy during the spring and summer getting everything done, and it’s easy to forget about the grain in their bins. Tools for remote monitoring are really important for alerting growers about temperature or moisture issues before they can become serious problems.

by Enrico Villamaino