Click to hear KMZU’s Kristie Cross speak with State Extension Specialist for Soybean at the University of Missouri Bill Wiebold:
Farmers are preparing to harvest a bumper crop this year and, with those record yields, come problems of transportation and storage while they wait for an increase in prices. The options left to producers may be less than ideal. “If you don’t have enough good storage, and I say good in terms of well-constructed storage, much of it is going to have to be put outside,” said Wiebold, “That’s a real challenge because keeping grain safely stored outside and exposed to at least some of the elements can be a real challenge.”
Wiebold described some of the potential situations producers will need to consider. “There are, for lack of a better word, they’re called grain bags that are a little bit like what people have been putting silage in,” said Wiebold, “There are also other ways in which to put piles of grain outside. All of this is to say that it’s surely possible, I just think it’s new so people have to think about which grain they’re going to put out there, what the moisture is going to be, how dry do they have to get it, how to protect it from the elements whether it’s rain or drainage, and how to cool the grain if it gets hot.”
Those choosing to leave the crop in the field a bit longer than normal will also be taking a risk. “I can understand the temptation, “said Wiebold, “In a perfect world, maybe that would work out, but we don’t usually have perfect weather in the fall. So, what I get concerned about for corn is that, once that plant is mature and dead, there are fungi that like to come in and digest parts of the stalk and the ear shank, so it weakens that stalk. Is it a problem for a few days? No. But the longer the grain stays out in the field, the weaker the stalk becomes and then you run the risk of lodging and ear drop if we get a wind event.”
The United States Department of Agriculture has released their predicted numbers for harvest. “The total of the two crops is pretty close to a billion bushels,” said Wiebold, “I made a silly calculation, I guess, but if you would pile that onto a football field and you could keep the sides straight, just in Missouri, that pile would reach four miles into the sky.”
The University’s webpage covers topics that include grain storage management, drying, dangers and pests, temporary and alternative storage, as well as a storage locator and grain storage webinars.
Farmers might be storing this year’s bumper corn crop in unconventional ways while they wait for prices to rise. But this can reduce yield before and after harvest due to delayed maturity.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects record corn yields that will exceed available on-farm and commercial storage this year. Rail and truck transportation issues also are likely to delay moving grain from the farm to the end user.
Soybean will be favored for available on-farm and commercial storage because of higher market prices. More corn likely will be left to stand in the field for drying and temporary storage, says Bill Wiebold, University of Missouri Extension corn specialist.
Expect larger losses the longer your corn stands, Wiebold says.
Corn was planted later than normal this year because of early spring rains and low temperatures. Later planting means later maturity. As a result, air temperatures during in-field drying probably will be lower than normal, increasing the time it will take corn to dry, he says.
“Field drying time at 75 F air temperature is surely faster than when air temperature is 55 F,” Wiebold says. “No one can predict air temperatures very far in the future, but delayed maturity almost certainly means field drying will occur at cooler temperatures. This means a greater number of days to reach a particular grain moisture.”
Longer in-field drying also will increase the risk of wind and rain damage. Stalk rot fungi can weaken plants, causing stalks to fall over and ear shanks to break off.
The two biggest enemies of grain storage are moisture and temperature. Seeds live even after corn reaches physiological maturity and the plant dies. Respiration continues, with water and heat as byproducts. Stored corn increases in moisture percentage and temperature unless dried artificially or aerated (air movement without heat).
Storing grain outside presents several challenges, Wiebold said. The cost of drying grain to an acceptable 13 percent moisture is expensive. Some farmers will choose to store grain in storage bags, but these do not allow aeration.
Airtight bags can reduce heat and moisture. This reduces or eliminates a fungus that causes grain spoilage.
How much corn could be harvested this year? Wiebold said if the United States Department of Agriculture’s predictions are true, 822.7 million bushels of corn and soybean will be harvested. Wiebold says this amount piled on a football field would be 4 miles high, higher than some commercial airlines fly.
For more information on corn storage, go to http://extension.missouri.edu/main/spotlight/grain.aspx, or visit with your local MU Extension center.