The agronomy of bin accidents

Although Nebraska farmer Guy Mills is equipped to handle plugged augers and concrete-solid spoiled grain in the bin, his preference is to attack the problem 10 months before it happens.

Mills thinks about keeping people out of his bins as he plans next season. His approach to bin safety starts sometime the previous winter as he plans the upcoming corn crop.

“Keeping somebody safe (and out of the bins) starts with hybrid choice, planting date and fertility. I’m talking about sulfur, phosphorus and nitrogen considerations that give you a harder starch. Also, we use two fungicides to ensure a harder kernel. A lot of it goes back to fungicides. A green plant with a white ear will reach physiological maturity. Sure, it’s just one factor of many, but everything counts.

“Also, think about combine adjustments. One main mistake is a loose clean grain elevator chain. A kernel between the sprocket and chain gets cracked, and then enters the bin and is susceptible to spoilage. There’s a lot going on before corn reaches the bin.”

Mills runs the corn through a seed cleaner after drying, and uses the fines to feed his cattle. For a higher volume of air, he runs oversized centrifugal fans rather than axial fans. He physically checks all bins once a week.

“We pay careful attention to corn quality and watch our bins really close. Do I smell anything? Do I feel heat? Is it wet to the touch? Is there a crust? How deep do I sink in when walking across the corn?

“This inspection is still performed even though moisture and temperature cables are installed in the larger 110,000-bushel bins. It takes discipline, but the profit is in being able to capture appreciated basis and carry in the market by storing corn.”

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