Manitoba grain starting to move to Thunder Bay, ships on the way

Farmers are being warned to get grain into proper storage before the ground thaws

Doug Chorney

Grain needs to be moved to safe storage before the spring thaw or it could spoil, warns Digvir Jayas, a grain-handling and storage expert at the University of Manitoba.

It’s unknown how much Manitoba grain is stored on the ground, in machine sheds or silo bags instead of conventional bins. The good news is grain is starting to move in Manitoba, after a winter of poor rail service.

“A lot has broke loose in the last few weeks with this rail announcement,” Keystone Agricultural Producers president Doug Chorney said in an interview April 9. “We’re seeing lots of trucks on the road and we’re seeing basis levels improve dramatically, which is helping movement. Hopefully before thawing is complete we’ll see a lot of this cleaned up.”

More from the Manitoba Co-operator website: Railways accused of trying to swamp West Coast, Thunder Bay

The Canadian Grain Commission says during week 35 (ending April 6) of the current crop year 495,000 tonnes of the six major grains were stored at Thunder Bay, up 113,900 tonnes from the week before.

Meanwhile, the port was expecting the arrival of its first two grain ships, capable of handling 25,000 tonnes each, early this week, said Thunder Bay Port Authority CEO Tim Heney.

The St. Lawrence Seaway opened March 28 for its 56th shipping season.

“We’re not seeing a lot of shipping yet to the U.S. or Eastern Canada,” said Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association. “We are starting to see some increased movement to Thunder Bay.”

Grain should be moved into bins with aeration before May 2014, Jayas said in a news release.

Research shows canola stored at 12 per cent moisture content maintained its grade if moved before the ground thawed. It lost one grade if moved a month after the ground started thawing. The grade dropped to feed if moved after a few months of summer.

  • Moist grain should be dried or processed first. Natural air drying works when the air temperature is higher than 15 C and relative humidity is lower than 65 per cent.
  • Cold grain should be turned or aerated to raise the grain temperature to between 5 to 10 C to prevent moisture migration.
  • Newly harvested grain should not be put on the top of the grain harvested in the previous year.
  • Newly harvested grain should go into clean bins. Approved insecticides should be applied to disinfest empty bins.

Links to crop storage information:

Manage storage to prevent infestations

Safe Storage Guidelines

The Manitoba government estimates only about 400,000 bushels of grain are being stored in silo bags, mainly in the southwest and west-central parts of the province.

Most grain in the Red River Valley is in grain bins, an official said, adding that the province’s bin-listing service has seen little action this spring.

Chorney said he hasn’t had any calls from farmers looking for bins. And he hasn’t seen much grain in bags or on the ground during his travels.

“But even grain in secure storage is vulnerable to degradation because of temperature changes,” Chorney said. “There was a lot of crusting reported across the Prairies this winter.”

Chorney said he encountered crusting himself even though he has full floor aeration and closely monitors his binned grain.

Some farmers suspect crusting was caused because the grain was so hot during harvest, followed by a colder-than-normal winter.

Others suspect snow blew into their bins and melted.

About the author


Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.



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