Making the most of flat storage

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PRINCETON, Ky. – With grain prices limping along, farmers are looking for creative ways to store grain that normally would have been sent directly from the field to the grain elevator.
Many farmers have grain bins to store at least part of their grain and often contract it for various prices as well.
But many do not advance price all their grain because of production uncertainties that can impact yield and, as a result, they will sell some on the cash market.
However, that market is at low levels prompting many farmers to hunt for more storage space.
More money. Holding corn until January may mean as much as $1 more per bushel in some areas, providing an incentive for farmers to do the retrofits needed to buildings.
Plus it gives them that flexibility in future years, said Sam McNeill, extension agricultural engineer with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
Top condition. He quickly cautions that farmers need to carefully manage grain stored in on-farm buildings, commonly called flat storage, to keep it in top condition.
Figuring out storage capacity, air flow, grain handling and reinforcing walls are the main points to flat storage.
“It’s still not as good as storing it in a metal bin because it’s got tremendous exposure to rodents and birds,” he said.
“One thing they must do to help protect grain quality is to install an aeration system with tubes and fans. Generally, it is better to force air up through the pile if it is in a building.
“If it is stored outside with a soft, tarp cover it is better to suck air through it because it holds the tarp down as well.”
Storing inside a farm building is better because the losses are greater with outside storage, McNeill said.
Grain per building. McNeill said he’s gotten questions from farmers and extension agents on how much grain they can get in a building.
So, he’s put together a calculator that uses building size to estimate the height of the pile and the number of bushels that can be stored.
Storage capacity also depends on whether they can stack it against walls.
Reinforcement. Often, reinforcing is needed to do this unless the building came with a commercial grain kit. A 40-foot-by-60-foot building with reinforced walls capable of 4-foot vertical storage can hold 13,000 bushels, meaning a potential $13,000 additional income.
Reinforcements can be done using 6-by-6 posts about 4 feet apart and two-by-fours on edge every 2 feet 8 inches apart, similar to wall studs in a home, with 3/4 -inch plywood against that.
Four feet is a good, economical height.
Another option would be to place bin rings inside a building.
Rings won’t need reinforcing but will need aeration. Aeration ducts and fans should be put in before grain is placed in the building.
On a large pile, ducts should be about 5 feet short of the end of the pile and the first 5 feet on the fan side needs to be a solid duct to obtain good distribution of airflow through the pile.
The size and number of ducts needed depends on the size of the grain pile.
Cool, dry. Grain going into flat storage needs to be as dry and cool as possible to maintain quality, McNeill said.
If corn is above 14 percent moisture, it will require drying then cooling before being placed in the building.
“You want to put the driest corn you have, and you’d really like to have it cleaned first because in moving it you are going to create more cracks and fines,” he said.
“In terms of handling, you want it to be the last storage you fill and the first one you empty.”
Flat storage takes more steps and needs to be watched more closely than grain stored in bins, but the monetary incentives are there to do it, McNeill said.

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