Elevated moisture levels, mold, insects and fine material all present challenges to stored grain. Here are some points to keep in mind as you harvest and store grain this year:

• Check your crop insurance. Crop losses incurred in the field are covered by insurance, but post-harvest crop losses are not.

• Minimize grain breakage. “Dry kernels and kernels that have been invaded by fungi in the field will break up more easily, so you’ll need to set your combine at the lowest cylinder speed you can to get a decent removal of kernels from the cobs,” says Richard Stroshine, agricultural engineer at Purdue University.

• Lower moisture levels rapidly. For early harvested corn, Stroshine recommends a stored moisture content of 14.5 percent, or 13 percent if the grain will be stored through next summer.

• Manage aspergillus ear rot. The hot and dry summer has provided a good environment for the development of this fungus in corn. The fungus produces aflatoxin, a carcinogen that can be harmful or fatal to livestock. Test grain to identify infected kernels. Remove fine material and small kernels from the harvested grain to help reduce mycotoxin levels.

• Watch for insects. Higher populations of grain-damaging bugs are expected this year with the warmer temperatures and the availability of broken kernels and fine material as food.


Protect yourself from dust and mold

Advice for managing stored grainConditions are ideal for mold growth and dust this harvest season, which can lead to respiratory problems.

“Other than avoiding dust exposure all together, the only practical method of reducing or minimizing the possibility of an allergic reaction is through the use of a respirator,” says Dean Ross, a farm management consultant based in Michigan.

There are different forms of breathing protection, but the one most commonly needed when working around fine organic dust is a disposable particulate respirator. The respirator is a molded fiber cup held in place with elastic bands so it is sealed to the face. It works by filtering the air passing through it as the user breathes.

However, these respirators look similar to and can be confused with disposable nuisance dust masks. The next time you’re at the farm-supply store, look for an “N” Series disposable particulate respirator.

These respirators can be reused, but dispose of them when they become saturated with liquid, breathing becomes difficult, the mask loses its shape, the mask does not seal to your face or you can taste or smell a substance known to be in the air.

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