Managing your stored wheat

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Column by Matt Adams, Hardin County Extension Service agent

With winter wheat harvest set to begin in the next couple of weeks in Hardin County, producers need to keep a few things in mind when storing the harvested crop.

Unless producers take their wheat crop directly to market, the work is not finished when harvest is complete. Stored wheat needs proper care to maintain quality.

Sanitation, aeration and monitoring are crucial points to remember when storing your grain during the summer months.

Remove the old crop before placing newly harvested wheat into a bin. Thoroughly sweep the bin wall and floor, including under aeration ducts  if possible, to remove grain kernels that may contain insect larvae or mold spores. A wet-dry vacuum helps ease the drudgery of this chore a bit.

Apply an approved insecticide inside and outside the bin to delay insect population development before placing wheat in the bin.

Thoroughly clean all equipment used to handle grain — combines, carts, trucks and receiving pits/hoppers — to remove old grain, trash and debris that might contaminate the new crop. Use pressurized air/water.

Check for holes and cracks in bin roofs and walls. Seal them to prevent leaks and entry of insects and rodents.

Grain should be cleaned and stored at 12.5 percent moisture if it will be held into August.

Consider applying a grain “protectant” to the bulk grain mass. Only apply to unheated wheat. Consider applying a “cap out” treatment to the grain surface. Do not apply if a protectant is used. Information on approved products is available at www.uky.edu/Agriculture/ Entomolgy/entfacts/fldcrops/ef145.htm

Aeration should be used to cool wheat after drying with heated air. To a small degree, aeration controls grain temperature if it starts heating during storage, but this may only be a short-term solution. If heating cannot be controlled by running a fan, the crop must be moved to another bin if possible to break up hot spots that usually cause problems.

Check the condition of stored wheat once a week during hot weather to guard against deterioration from molds or insects. Run the fan for a few minutes to check for off odors of the air from the grain pile. Lock out unloading auger motor switches before looking inside any bin to check for wet spots on the grain surface.

Feel the top 6 to 12 inches of wheat to monitor temperatures and insect and mold activity. Use “pitfall” traps to monitor insect activity. Use three traps per bin. Check traps weekly in July and August. In colder months, trap for four days each month.

If insects are detected, have them identified and classified as primary or secondary feeders. Be especially interested in lesser grain borer or true weevils. If insects are numerous enough to result in a discount or you are planning to hold the gain into the next warm season, consider having the grain fumigated.

Always wear dust protection masks when cleaning bins and during inspections.

See University of Kentucky extension publications Principles of Grain Storage (AEN-20) and Aeration, Inspection, and Sampling of Grain in Storage Bins (AEN-45) for more information on grain storage and safety considerations when inspecting stored grain.

For more information on storing grain, contact the Hardin County Cooperative Extension Service.

Matt Adams is a Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.