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Grain Bin Maintenance

Before grain harvests begin, it is critically important to check the condition of harvest equipment and bins before bringing in the crop.

"Your grain crop is a major investment that needs to be protected," says University of Nebraska agricultural engineering specialist David Shelton. "Grain quality does not improve in storage. At best, the initial quality can only be maintained. If you take the extra time to make sure conditions are good for storing grain, then you are protecting that investment."
Proper storage begins with the condition of the harvested grain, including moisture level and how it leaves the combine and then is transported and handled.

Producers should thoroughly clean their equipment and make adjustments to minimize grain damage and maximize the removal of foreign materials.

"So many of our insect and other problems in storage are the result of damaged grain," Shelton said. "Producers need to minimize the amount of grain that is cracked during combining and handling. Proper adjustments and management, such as combine adjustments and making sure transfer augers run at full capacity, help reduce damage and make grain more storable."
Grain Bin model 1/64

He said grain carts, augers, trucks, combines and other harvest equipment should be free of all traces of old grain. "That grain left over from last season can be a source for mold or insect infestation," Shelton said. "Over time even a small amount of insect eggs or mold spores can contaminate a full bin of grain, especially if the grain is a little on the wet and warm side."
Grain bins also should receive a thorough checkup and cleaning, including removal of all old grain. Never mix new and old grain. You can keep and manage old grain, but it should be kept in a separate storage bin. There is a high risk for insect development over time. It's unusual for major insect infestation in the first year, but after that the risk goes up dramatically.

Ideally, grain should be stored in several small bins rather than a few large ones. Smaller bins provide for better management, giving producers more options for moving and storing grain, and if one bin goes bad, the loss is not as great.
After removing the old grain, it is particularly important to check under the perforated floors for accumulations of broken kernels and other materials that can be a breeding ground for insects and mold. A few simple tools such as brooms, shovels, and a good shop vacuum are effective in cleaning equipment and bins, and a high pressure air hose can be used for those hard-to-reach spots.

Shelton discourages the use of power washers on bins and harvest equipment because they can create moisture and corrosion problems.
Ideally, perforated bin floors should be removed for cleaning. If that is not possible, and there is evidence of insect activity, the empty bin should be treated or fumigated before filling. This should be done as early as possible, because some chemicals require a waiting period of up to two weeks after application before adding grain.
"It is absolutely essential that applicators follow the label on these chemicals," Shelton said. "Only a very few are appropriate for soybeans. Most are labeled specifically for corn or sorghum. With improper use you run the risk of contamination of food materials as well as the loss of time and money."

Checking around the bin site is also an important step before harvest. Remove spilled grain and other debris such as old boards or tall grass that might provide hiding areas for rodents and insects.

Bin foundations should be inspected for cracks or other structural problems. Anchor bolts should be tightened, and any gaps that could provide entry for rodents or insects should be sealed. Electrical wiring should also be checked for wear, and all wiring at entry and exit points should be sealed against weather and pests.
Check fans, heaters, transitions, and ducts for corrosion and damage. Remove any accumulated dust and dirt. Be sure all joints in the duct-work are tight; otherwise the aeration or drying air
will short-circuit, reducing the operating efficiency.

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Grain Bin Level Monitor
Grain Bin Level Monitor

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