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Bagging Wet Corn A Viable Option

Avoiding high-moisture corn is not an option in 2009 for many producers. Whether your corn is going to feed or the market, the major challenge is storage.

But not only moisture will chal lenge the storage and receiving of grain; substantial mould proliferation has farmers and elevator managers alike very concerned.

Because of this year’s harvest conditions, many producers are looking for either temporary storage (for later drying) or additional storage to accommodate wet corn (for feeding) because they do not want to plug a huge bin with wet corn. As a result, two very common questions have arisen: “Can I put it in the bag?” and, “How long will it keep?”

Using the long white storage or silo bags is a very viable alternative for short-term storage. We have used them for years to store wet forage, and farmers have adapted them for various other commodity feeds, wet and dry. Besides, you can put the bags just about anywhere.

Today, dealing with wet shelled corn, the biggest advantage may be the bags’ size. In an era of gigantic bins, you do not want the risk of adding wet grain. Moreover, while drying sounds like a logical answer, dryer capacity and availability of fuel have a “choke hold” on the harvest of our crops. Therefore, producers are looking for temporary storage options.

The silo bag makes sense. However, storage recommendations are for crops at the appropriate moisture.

So if you are going to harvest wet corn and you are going to store it wet, how long can you store it? That is where our colder winter temperatures may be an advantage. Compared with bins or large piles, the bag is of small diameter (nine to 12 feet). Once in the bag, wet corn will be refrigerated more quickly by our winter temperatures. Once cooled, this natural refrigeration will slow spoilage.

I have seen examples of producers using bags for storage of 24 per cent corn last year, and that worked fine. However, this year, where moistures exceed 32 per cent, that could be a problem. In general, corn stored in oxygen-limiting silos, such as the bag, should have an ideal crop moisture at 28 per cent to 32 per cent, with a minimum of 24 per cent and a maximum of 35 per cent.

High-moisture corn above 32 per cent kernel moisture may result in difficulty in unloading from more typical silos. The bag is better suited to handle the corn.

For corn above 40 per cent moisture, no storage device will offset an undesirable fermentation that will take place and yeast that will predominate, along with high ethanol levels, resulting in poor animal acceptance. Nor will any storage device hold a product to extend a producer’s marketing strategy.

If high-moisture corn is stored in bags, locate bags away from trees and long grass, and keep snow removed from around the bags. For best results, remove bagged high-moisture corn during cooler months. Punctures, rips or tears in the summer can cause rapid and expensive spoilage.

The best advice may be to use common sense. We do not know what “normal” corn growing, harvesting and storage conditions are anymore. Unfortunately, little research has been done in this area in recent years because this is applied research for which little, if any, financial support is available. So monitor those bags weekly and carry some tape to repair all tears. Once critters find and tear the bag, spoilage will accelerate and losses due to spoilage will be magnified immensely.

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