Big bins are convenient and efficient, but farmers must manage them differently than smaller bins.
Big bins pose risks to stored grain that farmers might not be aware of, says grain storage expert Digvir Jayas.
“Large bins have their own problems,” said Jayas, who is studying large bin storage challenges.
“I’ve seen it with my eyes.”
Jayas said problems can arise because grain in the middle of large bins can stay above the insect-killing point throughout a winter. Smaller bins generally get cold enough to kill those bugs.
The overwintered bugs in big bins can multiply in the spring, and create a dangerous population.
“Once you start using these bins for a year or longer, then storage issues come and more care needs to be taken or you can have significant spoilage,” said Jayas, research vice-president of the University of Manitoba, which has a grain storage research centre.
Jayas and fellow researchers began a three-year study of a 32-foot diameter bin last fall, adding a small number of grain insects to the top of the bin to see if they would survive the winter.
This spring they didn’t have trouble finding bugs, which had sheltered among warmer grain in the bin core.
“Quite a significant number do survive,” said Jayas.
This wasn’t a surprise to him, because he has seen big bin spoilage in farm country. An insurance company showed him a large bin that had serious spoilage.
It’s not something many farmers want to talk about, Jayas said. Having grain spoil can be seen by farmers as a sign of bad management, so many don’t want anybody to know about it if it happens.
That leaves the risk that many farmers might not realize the dangers since they never hear about it.
Once farmers start using big bins, which tend to be cheaper on a cost-per-tonne basis, they must realize they aren’t just bigger. They face different challenges than smaller bins and need to be managed differently.
“There’s no reason they shouldn’t use big bins,” said Jayas.
“They just need to be more vigilant.”
The University of Manitoba experiment will carry on through the spring, summer and fall of 2020 and into 2021 to see how the grain and bugs fare when left for longer.