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Soybean Experts Share Best Practices for Long-Term Storage

Oct 17, 2018

Current market conditions have many South Dakota soybean growers considering long-term storage solutions this harvest.

Because storing soybeans into the spring and summer months is a unique practice and the weather this fall has been far from ideal, the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (SDSRPC) reached out for best management practices from Sara Bauder, SDSU Extension Agronomy Field Specialist and Kenneth Hellevang, soybean storage expert, NDSU Extension Engineer, Professor.

“Typically, soybean growers expect to sell their soybeans before spring planting and local elevators would be shipping soybeans to the Pacific North West for export. Those markets are not there this year. So, instead of soybeans going to market, we are looking at having to store those soybeans. And, we are not sure how long we need to store them,” Hellevang says.

11 percent moisture

When soybeans are stored short-term, during the winter months, 12 to 13 percent moisture is adequate because cool temperatures help maintain soybean quality at those moisture levels. However, when storing long-term, into the spring and summer months, research shows that it is crucial to ensure soybeans are dried down to 11 percent moisture at storage.

“We would anticipate problems if soybeans are stored at moisture contents greater than 11 percent,” Hellevang says, pointing to increased risk of mold and fungi growth which leads to grain spoilage.

He points to research which shows soybean’s oil quality is compromised if soybeans are stored at even 12 percent moisture and 70 degrees for four months. Keeping the soybeans cool and dry is critical for maintaining quality.

And, due to excess moisture this harvest season, Bauder adds most South Dakota growers will not be able to achieve 11 percent moisture without drying assistance.

“This harvest is producing unique challenges, especially throughout the eastern and south eastern regions of the state. In many cases, crops likely won’t dry down to appropriate storage moisture in the fields this year,” Bauder said.

Bin storage is best solution

Bag storage has been a reliable, short-term storage solution for many soybean growers. However, because they do not offer temperature control or aeration, Bauder and Hellevang say bags are not a sustainable long-term storage solution.

“There is no way to cool the grain in the bag, so as temperatures start rising in the spring, the grain temperature in the bag will also start to go up. When this happens, we are now facing quality loss,” Hellevang says.

Some growers may consider storing soybeans in bags for a few months, and transferring the bushels to bins before spring.

Bin checks

Once soybeans are safely stored in bins, Bauder reminds growers to conduct bin checks every two weeks, or when there is a dramatic temperature change. “Growers should mark their calendars to check bins every couple of weeks. Even if they are storing soybeans at the proper moisture content. They never know if they could end up with a bin leak or if the moisture level on all bushels was consistent with the load they tested,” Bauder says.

If their bin does not have temperature sensors in the grain, she suggests growers need to be more diligent at manually monitoring the soybeans.

If growers have more storage questions, they can reach out to Bauder at