Now is the time for farmers to take action on damp grain

Many farmers are facing a unique (to them) management and marketing risk this spring, and they might not have thought it out well yet.

The time to figure out what to do with frozen, tough grain is now because grain enters a danger zone once bins begin warming this spring.

Frozen grain is free from most of the dangers of heating and degradation, if there aren’t hidden hot spots, but what happens in the spring when the outside air crawls above zero and the grain begins warming?

Somehow farmers have to dry or market that grain before and as it warms, but that could come at a very unfortunate time: the pre-seeding/seeding rush.

Farmers who often have to deal with tough grain no doubt know how to juggle it through the winter and into spring. But for the thousands who don’t often deal with damp grain, handling the spring thaw at the same time as trying to dry the grain with aeration, moving it somewhere that has a dryer, or marketing it to an elevator able to take it will collide with preparations for the 2020-21 crop year.

No doubt it will be one of the least exciting parts of this spring’s activities, and therefore likely to be ignored or avoided by some. That could be perilous.

The Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute has done good research and has good advice on how to handle situations like this. I heard some of that during CropConnect, Manitoba’s biggest grain growers’ conference, and had a chance to chat with PAMI’s Charley Sprenger about how farmers can handle the spring warming situation.

“We really don’t know how things work so much,” said Sprenger, who has been talking to farmers about aeration, supplemental heating and other activities many don’t normally have to worry about.

“If you have access to a dryer, get it in.”

However, many don’t. That will force many farmers to decide if they should try to dry and manage the grain themselves or move it on. Marketing that grain now might make sense.

“Really, you should try to get it on a truck to the elevator,” said Sprenger.

If marketing damp grain is a real possibility, it makes sense to be talking to buyers now, before the danger zone is entered. It might be hard to find the right buyer that will pay a reasonable price. It might take a bit of work to get it to that buyer. Taking that on while getting machines, inputs and fields prepared won’t be pleasant.

If farmers decide to dry the grain themselves inside their own bins, PAMI and other storage experts have lots of advice on how that can be done. There are many tricks and challenges, so for those who don’t have much experience with spring drying, it’s worth thinking about today. Learning the ins and outs of supplemental heating, for example, will take a bit of work.

Already farmers are itching to get on with the new crop. Dealing with old crop problems might seem like an unpleasant distraction once it’s possible to get immersed in seeding preparations.

But there’s a lot of value at risk in those bins, and it’d be a tragedy to see it destroyed.

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