Get grain piles safely binned before May, expert warns

Grain that’s gone mouldy in storage. (Photo courtesy AAFC Cereal Research Centre/U of M)

One of the Prairies’ top experts in stored grain’s circle of life is warning farmers to get piled or bagged crops up off the ground before next month.

Last fall’s bumper harvest and this winter’s grain rail freight backlog have together left Prairie farmers without sufficient bin space storing crops in Silobags or Quonsets or just piled on the ground, University of Manitoba professor Digvir Jayas said in a release Monday.

Heading into spring and summer, he warned, farmers run the risk of seeing that piled or bagged grain spoiling under pressure from insects, mould and/or rodents.

Grain should be moved out of Silobags and Quonsets and off the ground “as soon as possible” and into bins with aeration, “best before May 2014,” said Jayas, the former Canada Research Chair in stored-grain ecosystems and now the university’s vice-president for research.

Research on canola stored in Silobags at 12 per cent moisture has shown the crop maintained its grade if unloaded before the ground is thawed, Jayas said. The crop lost one grade if unloaded a month after ground thawing began — and would be downgraded to feed if unloaded a few more months into summer.

Grain with higher moisture content should be dried or processed first, he said. Methods can include natural air drying when the air temperature is higher than 15 C and relative humidity is lower than 65 per cent.

After the middle of April, weather conditions on some days can fit that bill, he said.

Cold grain should be turned or aerated to raise the grain temperature to between 5 to 10 C to prevent moisture migration, he added.

Newly harvested grain, Jayas warned, should not be put in on top of grain harvested in previous years. New crop should go into bins that are cleaned of grain residues, and approved insecticides should be applied to “disinfest empty bins.”

When grain is warm, the Canadian Grain Commission warned last fall, it can give off odours that attract insect pests from great distances — and many stored product insect pests are strong fliers that can migrate distances greater than just a few metres.

“When stored grain is properly maintained, there is less chance of mould growth and insect infestations and subsequent damage to grain quality,” the CGC said.

Insect pests that are able to infest, feed and reproduce on whole, sound grain are considered “primary” insects, while “secondary” insect pests need mould or damaged grain kernels to survive.

Secondary insect pests in grain may indicate mould is present and the grain is going out of condition — even if it may appear whole. Finding secondary insects may also mean primary insects have already infested and damaged the grain. — AGCanada.com Network

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