Grain News

Dr. Charles Hurburgh: Variable Grain Quality in Storage May Mean Problems in Spring

Date Posted: February 5, 2014

"It's safe to assume that the grain in your storage tank is 2% wetter than you think."

That assessment came from Dr. Charles Hurburgh, professor of agricultural engineering at Iowa State University, Ames.

It was part of a presentation he gave Jan. 30 at a meeting of the Grain Elevator and Processing Society's Cornbelt chapter in Bloomington, IL.

"Overall, it was a dry year in Iowa and in portions of Illinois," Hurburgh said. "It's a little better now but still dry.

"Weather extremes have become more severe. That dry year followed one of the wettest springs on record and one of the latest crop plantings."

The result has been a lot of variability in the corn and soybeans that went into storage during the 2013 harvest, both on the farm and at the elevator.

"In some cases, we had 15% moisture and 30% moisture corn in the same row," he said. "No dryer can completely make up for that."

Currently, Hurburgh said, extremely cold temperatures this winter have helped maintain grain quality in storage, but there may be some "unpleasant surprises" once the weather warms up in the spring.


* The corn crop in 2013 came in with small kernels, average test weight at 54-55 pounds per bushel, and low protein levels.

* The extended planting season resulted in high variability in the crop, resulting in poor storage properties. In particular, there is a lot of both low and high test weight corn in the same tank.

* Dry weather resulted in more field drydown than in 2012, but any corn that was planted late was still wet.

* On average, moisture levels for the 2013 were moderate, but the levels were so variable that it resulted in erratic drying, more fines, and wetter overall corn in the bins.


* Early-harvested soybeans were small and dry, but rains later in the harvest rewetted beans.

* Protein and oil are both above average.

* Relatively high foreign material (FM) included a lot of green stems and herbicide-resistant weeds. Late-growth soybeans had more green stems and a more mixed level of quality.

* The farther east you go, the wetter the beans. The lab at Iowa State received on sample from the eastern Illinois/Indiana border region at 35% moisture.

* Farmers and elevator operators need to keep a close watch on stored soybeans -- once again, they're wetter than you think.

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