Make sure you don’t get a surprise from a bin of stored canola

Alot of canola went in the bin hot and will still be hot unless it has been aerated or turned to cool it down. Pockets of green seed, tough seed and dockage within an otherwise dry and cool bin can also lead to spoilage. Damage often occurs when you least expect it.

Neglected canola bins are at greatest risk. All canola should be conditioned right after harvest, and checked at least a couple of times in the first four to six weeks to make sure the temperature is cool and stable.

“The safest bet is to assume that all canola is at risk. To put canola in the bin and forget about it really isn’t the best option,” says Keith Gabert, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada. “When heating occurs, it is often a surprise because the grower didn’t expect that particular canola bin to spoil. They checked their tough canola, they checked their hot canola, but assumed the relatively cool and dry bin was safe.”

Green seed and dockage increase the risk. And bins that are dry or cool on average may contain a few loads that are tough or hot. “Tough canola from a slough bottom or a little green material that gets into the bin can be enough to start isolated heating that can eventually damage a whole bin,” Gabert says.

Adding to the risk this year is that, with a bumper crop, more canola may have gone into bins without aeration. Immediate aeration is recommended to lower the temperature and even out moisture. Canola not on aeration should be watched regularly.

Probing grain through the bottom and top hatches is one way to check bins, particularly bins without monitoring cables. In fall and winter, moisture migrating through the grain is most likely to concentrate at the top of the central core, so probing the top will be required.

Gabert recommends a composite sample of half a dozen probes. Use a probe on a pole so you can get into the central core. “Probing the top of a bin can be awkward, so please use a safety harness to reduce the risk of falling,” Gabert adds.

Better option — move it

A more effective and probably safer way to check canola is to remove at least one-third of the grain from the bin. This takes more time than probing, but it also exposes canola to cool fall air, reducing its temperature.

Be hands on when moving the canola. Watch for clumping. Sniff for the musty or burned smell of spoilage. Feel for temperature differences as the grain comes out of the bin. “If anything seems off, move the whole bin,” Gabert says. “Moving canola around could be a challenge this fall if growers have no extra bins to move it to. In that case, growers may consider delivering the highest-risk canola as early as possible.”

For growers holding out for higher prices, safe long-term storage is key. “However, holding out for higher prices only works if the canola also maintains its high quality,” Gabert says. “That is why it’s important to check all bins. For bins of concern, taking time to unload a third or more of the bin to cool it down and check for damage is definitely worth the hassle when you consider its value.”

The ideal canola conditions for safe long-term storage are temperatures throughout the bin of 15 C or lower, and moisture at or below eight per cent.

For more on canola storage risks, go to www.canolawatch.org, the site of the CCC’s free agronomy newsletter, and search for an article called “Top 10 risky situations for canola storage.”

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