Post-Harvest Grain Quality: Grain Conditioning Veteran Tim Sullivan Shares Top Tips for Handling This Year's Crop

This grain conditioning article is from a July/August 2020 GRAIN JOURNAL Q&A interview with Tim Sullivan, Tim Sullivan, LLC, Barnum, IA (515-351-0925).

Given what you’re seeing in the field now, how do expect this year’s grain crops to perform in storage?

So far, the crop is ahead of schedule, and planting was complete ahead of average.

Corn has pollinated ahead of average, and soybeans are blossoming ahead of average. A very high percentage of the crop is rated as excellent.

With the exception of some drought-affected areas, we have the prospects of a crop that will store quite well.

What recommendations do you have for getting storage ready to maintain crop quality for a maximum amount of time?

Completely empty bins, so you are not putting new crop grain on top of last year’s grain.

Clean out aeration tunnels, and repair cracks in fan-to-tunnel transitions.

Confirm that all of your roof exhausters are working, and repair the ones that aren’t. It also is very important to fix any roof leaks.

What recommendations do you have for monitoring the quality of grain in storage over time?

Utilize in-bin temperature monitoring systems. Supplement data gathered from a temperature monitoring system with carbon dioxide (CO2) data.

Collect CO2 data, and evaluate trends with the same discipline you apply to temperature data.

Pull the core out of bins immediately after filling the bin, and periodically transfer some grain out of the bin in order to check its appearance and smell, as well as to check temperatures.

What are some conditions that signal the need to move stored grain to market immediately?

Temperature, CO2 levels, and odor are the indicators that should trigger a reaction on your part.

If you cannot get a grain quality problem under control with aeration or selectively transferring a limited portion of the grain into another bin, the scope of the problem is bound to increase.

If you identify a problem that you can’t get under control, the number of bushels deteriorating is only going to increase.

Time to bite the bullet – work with your marketing personnel with a goal of establishing a sale where the volume will be large enough you can blend off the problem and not get hurt too bad.

What safety practices should be considered while holding grain in storage over time?

Develop a plan in advance that prioritizes bin space for longer term storage.

During static storage periods, avoid entering bins to conduct inventory measurements or quality evaluations.

Establish a relationship with third-party sources that can provide bin-whip or grain vac service should the need arise. Let the professionals do the work that requires their expertise.

Intuitively, we recognize that there is a direct correlation between low-quality grain and employee engulfments. Or, in other words, employees are not having to enter bins that contain free-flowing, U.S. No. 2 yellow corn.

A substantial part of grain elevator safety is driven by grain quality. Manage quality like you and your employees’ lives depend on it.

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