Balancing Moisture Content in Harvested Grain

Grain Quality - Part 5

Moisture content is an important factor in determining grain quality. Moisture content can lower grain quality at market or cause grain to spoil if moisture content is higher than recommended for storage. Without proper management, grain can deteriorate, harming your economic return.

In this installment of our “Grain Quality” series, we look at steps growers can take to achieve the ideal amount of moisture content before sending harvested grain to market.

How Moisture Impacts Grain

Moisture content is a main factor in determining the length of time grain remains edible. Grain moisture is a percentage of wet weight in harvested grain. It is essential in determining your economic return at harvest. For this reason, cereal farmers must have a reliable grain-testing method as even the slightest amount too dry or wet could decrease profits.

If moisture levels in grain are off, growers may experience:

  • Spoilage if grain is too wet and placed in low temperatures or natural-air drying bins.
  • Extra drying costs and combine losses if grain harvests are wetter than necessary.
  • Moisture shrinkage and drying charges when grain sells too wet.
  • Extra drying costs and loss of value when grain dries below the market standard.

After Harvest Grain

Following harvest, grain should be stored in a facility with adequate aeration capacity. Growers should make sure that they are storing only clean grain at the proper moisture content and temperature. To do so, Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources recommends the following steps:

  • Cleaning around the bin site.
  • Removing any old grain, grass, weeds, and other debris.
  • Removing all traces of old grain from the bin and harvesting equipment.
  • Properly adjusting the combine to minimize grain damage and expel foreign materials.
  • Cleaning the grain as it goes into the bin using a rotating grain cleaner.
  • Cooling the grain to the prevailing outside air temperature as soon as it goes into the bin.

Be aware, storing grain at the proper moisture content does not guarantee the grain will remain at that moisture.

Thorsten Schwindt“It’s essential that growers make a fungicide application with a product like Prosaro at flowering, to ensure a strong harvest”

- Thorsten Schwindt

Grain Temperature

The recommended storing temperatures for grain are important because they can impact the quality of your wheat.

According to Prairie Grains, the recommended moisture content for wheat is 14 percent from harvest up to nine months of storage. Prairie Grains recommends 13 percent for more than nine months of storage.

Dry grain should cool to less than 60 degrees as soon as possible after harvest, and to 20 or 30 degrees for winter storage. Prairie Grains also recommends following the temperature gauge below:

  • 80 degrees: The ideal temperature for insect and mold growth in stored grain.
  • 70 degrees: Cooling grain below this temperature reduces insect reproduction.
  • 50 degrees: Cooling grain below this temperature causes insects to become dormant.
  • 40 degrees: Mold growth is almost nil at temperatures below this.
  • 20-25 degrees: Grain should cool to this range for winter storage.

Drying Procedures

Wet grain provides excellent growth conditions for molds and insects in storage, which may deteriorate grain quality. To cut procedure costs, Successful Farming recommends growers consider the following practices:

  • Running dryers in all-heat mode.
  • Buying an all-heat dryer.
  • Upgrading to vacuum cooling or heat recovery.
  • Drying grain evenly.
  • Running dryers at a higher plenum temperature.
  • Avoiding over drying.

Moisture in the Field

Some growers express concern about applying fungicides late in the season, fearing the application may result in higher moisture in the harvested grain. Although a slight increase in grain moisture is occasionally seen, it is not typical of all treatments. Michigan State University wheat research showed minimal differences in grain moisture between treated and untreated wheat.

“The impact of diseases on yield and grain quality easily outweighs the potential tradeoff of slightly higher grain moisture associated with a fungicide treatment.” says Thorsten Schwindt, Fungicides Product Manager for Bayer. “Prosaro® is a foliar fungicide which consistently promotes higher yields and better grain quality.”

In conclusion, harvested grain moisture and the effects of disease can both impact your bottom line. The benefits of a strong disease-management program outweighs the potential cost associated with slightly increased moisture content.

Want to share your grain-quality story about wheat with us and your fellow growers? Tweet us -- @Bayer4CropsUS.

For more information about grain quality in wheat, call 1-866-99-BAYER (1-866-992-21937) or talk with your local sales representative.

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