Submitted on behalf of the United Soybean Board.
Management systems help protect grain
Strategic grain marketing carries more weight when commodity prices are low. For Lake Wilson, Minnesota farmer Gene Stoel, adding more on-farm storage and the technology to manage it was part of the strategy to get more value from each crop.
“It does open up marketing opportunities,” Stoel says. “If I had to sell everything right out of the field, I would miss out on the basis improvements that often happen after harvest.”
It’s not uncommon for farmers to hold tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of bushels of grain in their bins. Having that much grain on hand requires diligent management to maintain conditions. That puts lot at stake.
Advances in technology are helping farmers monitor and manage stored grain more closely.
For storage risks, the more the scarier
When Stoel added storage capacity to his farm three years ago, he included management technology to help protect his grain assets. Some of the tools he added include:
- Oversized fans to ensure that air could move through the grain mass
- Automatic fan controllers
- Temperature sensors
- Moisture sensors
One of the primary motivations Stoel saw for including management technology was to keep his soybeans hydrated, so he installed a bin-manager system. Soybeans that are too dry are at risk for cracking and other damage. Storing soybeans at the proper moisture level keeps them in condition and helps him market them at the optimal weight.
“It gives me peace of mind because the heat and moisture are being monitored,” Stoel adds.
“An average-size farm bin used to be 30,000 to 55,000 bushels,” says Jon Engelstad, international sales manager for Superior Grain Equipment in Kindred, North Dakota. “Now we’re seeing bins exceeding 200,000 bushels.”
That extra grain brings more opportunities for mishaps.
“A lot of on-farm storage is now very similar to commercial storage facilities,” says Engelstad. “When grain is stored in larger bins and for longer periods of time, the risks also increase.”
Managing storage expectations
Management technologies can help alert farmers to what is happening to grain, temperature and moisture levels inside the bin and they can help rehydrate grain. But there’s more to grain management than plugging in an automated system.
Grain systems also need to have the proper roof vents, floor aeration and air movement capacity to get optimum performance.
Using technology can be another cost for farm operators. But for Stoel, it was a price he was willing to pay. Now he can protect his soybeans and get the most from them when it’s time to sell.
“I think it’s been worth the investment,” Stoel says.
For more information, The South Dakota soybean checkoff has created a quick Best Bean Practices video focused on soybean storage recommendations.