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Harvest and Storage of Grain

Keeping a close eye on conditions is key to top quality.

A wheat field

For most farmers, grain is a staple to their operation. With such an important product, it's essential that their grains are harvested and stored properly until needed. Many factors come into play during these crucial times that can affect the quality of the grain; keep them in mind when planning for a successful finished product.

Harvesting: When is the Right Time?

  • Moisture: The crop moisture percentage affects not only the harvest itself, but all post-harvesting procedures. If the moisture is too high for that particular grain, quality may suffer and procedures such as grain drying become necessary, potentially adding costs.
  • Hybrid or variety characteristics: Hybrids or variety seeds are given a prime harvesting maturity date. Following the guidelines as much as possible is recommended for the best product.
  • End use: Depending on what the grain is being used for, harvesting times vary in their flexibility. For human consumption, restrictions are greater than for livestock consumption.
  • Pests: Damage from pests can be minimized with a timely harvest.

Storage: Tips and Advice

  • Facilities: Have bins regularly inspected for signs of deterioration. At least two weeks before adding grain, make sure the facility is completely cleaned, inside and out. Consider using empty bin sprays for summer stored grain, hard to clean bins, or if there is a history of insect problems.
  • Trucks harvesting a grain crop
  • Grain moisture: According to Virginia Extension specialists, many grains should be at no more than 12 percent moisture when stored, as this moisture level inhibits insect and fungi development.
  • Aeration: It is recommended that aeration should occur when outside temperatures are cool and humidity is low.
  • Chemical Protectants: For facilities that have had past infestations, or for grain that will be stored for long periods of time or in flat structures, the use of chemical protectants may be advised. It is important to remember that protectants will not help against an existing pest problem.
  • Monitoring: Stored grain should be checked on a regular basis for insects, hot spots, mold growth or any unusual odors until it leaves the storage facility. Perform insect samples twice a month under warm conditions, and once a month under cool conditions.

Fumigation: Extension experts suggest fumigation if insects are found above the suggested thresholds. Use extreme caution when working with fumigants. The treatment should be performed by trained, experienced and registered applicators. Products such as Storcide II, Malathion 5EC and Tempo SC Ultra should be considered to aid in pest control but follow all label instructions for proper use of these products.

For additional information on the harvesting and storage of grain, please consult your local Extension agent or experts at your local Southern States Cooperative.

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