If you grow it … aerate or risk damage

Protecting the harvest | Grain storage should be considered a commodity, not an after-thought, says industry official

Risk management tools are tall, circular and silver in Derek Johnson’s world.

The sales manager of grain storage and conditioning equipment for AGI says grain bins are key to farmers’ risk management strategy now that they are achieving higher yields and storing crops longer to capitalize on commodity markets.

Speaking at a UFA storage insights seminar Nov. 25, Johnson said there was big demand for bins and aeration equipment this year, which is a good sign for his business and for farmers’ businesses.

“Treat your storage like you would your other commodities on your farm, like your canola seed or your fertilizer,” he advised after his presentation.

“Start saying, ‘OK, look, I know I’m going to be producing X number of bushels per acre over the long haul. I need to update my storage on my farm.’ That’s where we want to get the farmer mentality,” he said.

“Storage is a relatively cheap investment over the long haul … and aeration is a really key element in the whole risk management strategy.”

As an example, 5,000 bushels of canola at $10.47 per bu., which are worth $52,350, costs $23,300 to produce.

With $3,450 spent on aeration equipment and an estimated $112 to run it for two weeks, it costs $3,562 to protect and preserve $29,050 worth of canola.

Johnson said that makes good business sense, but it depends on good storage and bin management. Wheat stored at 25 C and 19 percent moisture will begin to deteriorate in five to eight days, and “five days at harvest time goes by pretty quick.”

Drying crop in the bin requires a large volume of airflow, at .75 to 1.5 cubic feet per minute, per bushel, at the top of the bin, and drying won’t occur until the temperature rises to at least 10 C inside.

In contrast, aeration requires lower airflow of .1 cubic feet per minute per bu. at the top of the bin.

Smaller kernelled crops require larger volumes of airflow when drying. For example, wheat and barley will start drying at .75 to 1 cubic feet per minute, but canola and flax re-quire one to two cubic feet per minute per bu. to facilitate drying.

Matching the fan to the bin size and crop type is key to success.

“The most popular bin in Western Canada is a 5,000 bu. hopper bin right now, from a hopper bin perspective,” Johnson said, which re-quires five horsepower, high-speed fans.

He cautioned farmers to keep ventilation in mind, using the general guide of one sq. foot of vent for every 1,000 cubic feet per minute.

“Don’t kid yourselves, guys have bulged their roofs or blown the roofs right off their bins” by using powerful fans without enough vents, he said.

Farmers in southern Alberta are close to the manufacturing centre for AGI’s grain storage and conditioning equipment.

The plant in Nobleford, Alta., north of Lethbridge, completed a $25 million expansion in 2011 and has 150,000 sq. feet of manufacturing space.

AGI, with its head office in Winnipeg, makes the Grain Guard, Twister, Batco, Wheatheart, Westfield and Franklin Enterprises brands in Western Canada, as well as other lines in the United States and Europe.

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