Here at IntelliFarms, we understand that grain storage—the heartbeat of your farming operation—can also be its greatest risk. As the acreage of corn and soybeans expands, the need for efficient on-farm storage systems intensifies. These crops demand increased inputs and present numerous marketing opportunities. Consequently, our goal at IntelliFarms is to support farmers in managing storage and conditioning of crops, which are often grown with a specific purpose, rather than just yield. We achieve this through investing in our team, enhancing our products, and expanding our educational outreach. Below, you’ll find insights from Dr. John Lawrence, a prominent authority in grain storage management, highlighting the significance of mastering this crucial aspect of farming.
Consider your grain bins as your farm’s vault. Just as a bank uses advanced technology to monitor and safeguard your money round-the-clock, grains stored in bins need a similar level of protection. Yet, many stored grains are exposed to threats such as mold, insects, and weather, which can erode profits swiftly. For instance, a 48-diameter, 7-ring bin (25′) capable of storing roughly 36,000 bu. of corn worth $4/bu. implies a potential profit of $144,000—quite an investment to leave unguarded.
To underline the importance of proper grain storage management, let’s look at a real-life scenario.
The farmer in question had a 50,000 bu. bin equipped with a 0.1 cfm/bu. airflow aeration system—a setup best suited for aeration cooling or rewarming, not natural air-drying. Despite this, he attempted to air-dry corn in the bin. He loaded his harvested corn at 22% moisture and began the drying process, planning to run the fan continuously for three months. Unfortunately, his approach was flawed due to the inadequate airflow. The subsequent inspection revealed a devastating sight—all the grain had spoiled.
This mismanagement led to an approximate loss of $320,000, considering the corn’s value at $7/bu. in 2012. There are crucial lessons to be learned from this mishap, namely the importance of correct bin aeration setup and a reliable grain monitoring system.
A well-designed aeration system is integral to preventing spoilage. It should cater to the specific purpose of the bin—be it natural air-drying or mere aeration cooling/rewarming. Understanding these airflow requirements is a key element of successful grain management. However, a good aeration system is only half the battle; a monitoring system is needed to alert you when something goes awry.
A robust grain monitoring system is comprised of various components, including temperature and moisture cables, relative humidity sensors, CO2 sensors, a fan control system, a weather station, automated strategies, and wireless data collection capabilities. These elements work together to ensure optimal grain storage conditions, helping you safeguard your investment and maximize profits.
At IntelliFarms, we understand that managing stored grain involves numerous factors and can be complex—that’s why we offer solutions. Our intention in breaking down each component of a good grain monitoring system is to underscore the potential costs of mismanaged bins.