Stored For the Long Haul

Attention to quality management helps farmers get the most out of their soybeans whether they are bound for long-term storage or a voyage to overseas markets. Some soybeans are marketed right off the combine, while others are stored for months as farmers position themselves to respond to market opportunities. Their intended use impacts how farmers treat soybeans while in storage.

Important elements for safe soybean storage are seed moisture and temperature. High moisture combined with high temperatures can cause mold damage and grain spoilage.

“Proper grain management is a very vital portion of any farming system,” says David Karki, South Dakota State University agronomy field specialist in Watertown.

“Farmers can’t always get rid of grain right off the bat, and they often wait for a better market. Most farmers have their own target number in mind, so they will store soybeans and sell when the market is favorable.”

Karki says grain drying and storage go hand in hand. Ideally, soybeans are harvested between 13 and 15 percent moisture.

“With the weather we have in South Dakota, that’s not always possible,” Karki says.

Karki says the lower the moisture content, the longer soybeans can be stored. Soybeans that will be sold in six months or less can be kept at 13 percent moisture. Soybeans kept at 12 percent moisture can be stored for a year. Dropping below 10 percent moisture leaves soybeans susceptible to splitting, which damages quality.

Moisture Matters

Soybean harvest can begin as soon as the seeds are mature and foliage is dry, but Karki says seeds do not thresh well when moisture is above 18 percent. High moisture soybeans require high temperature drying for safe storage. Soybeans bound for a commercial market can be heated between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, while seed soybeans should be dried at temperatures between 100 and 110 degrees.

Drying may be necessary to prevent spoilage, but over drying can cost farmers at market. The table below demonstrates the amount of weight reduced as soybeans dry. For example, if 1,000 pounds of 16 percent moisture soybeans are dried to 11 percent moisture, the total weight loss is about 56 pounds.

Care and Handling

Karki says most farmers are increasingly aware of the need to properly manage their stored grain. Management is even more crucial as storage bins get larger.

“As the stored volume increases, farmers need additional resources to keep stored grain in good condition,” Karki adds.

Those resources include larger fans to move a higher volume of air through the bin to keep grain. Automated grain management systems that include temperature cables and moisture sensors ensure that stored soybeans are kept at the desired moisture and temperature level.

This blog post is brought to you by the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.