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  • Corn fields predisposed to stalk lodging may result in lower test weights and damaged kernels.
  • Adjust the combine to remove damaged kernels and preserve kernel integrity.
  • Dry grain at lower temperatures and properly temper to reduce stress cracks.
  • Iowa State University suggests drying corn to 15% moisture and soybeans to 13% moisture if stored until spring.
  • Proper winter storage temperature is 30-40⁰F.

Grain harvest and conditioning prior to storage is as much of an art as it is a science. Those of us who have been farming long enough have been exposed to the acronym S.L.A.M: Sanitation, Loading, Aeration & Monitoring. While all these points are important, the length of storage any grain will endure depends on our practices during harvest, cleaning and binning.

In the last few weeks, the corn crop across some fields in the Midwest have abruptly turned from green to yellow to brown. Oftentimes, corn fields that turn abruptly may develop poor stalk quality as the fall progresses. The degree of decline in stalk quality usually depends on ear size, and the timeframe between this abrupt color change and normal black layer. Stalk quality may not be the only thing that suffers in these fields, decreased test weight can also occur. While we have been conducting yield estimates in some areas, these estimates assume 56 lb./bushel test weight. Test weight is an indicator of yield and grain quality. However, storing grain with low test weights can be more costly and difficult. Light test weight corn is more susceptible to damage during harvest and more prone to stress fracturing during drying. Stress fractured grain and damaged kernels are known to create storage problems. Extra care should be exercised during harvest to adjust combines to limit kernel damage while shelling and to remove damaged grain. When drying grain, take care to properly slow cool (temper) the grain to prevent cracks and brittleness.The following table illustrates the effect of various drying methods on stress crack formation (Table 1 below).

Table 1: Effects of drying methods on stress crack formation. (Source: Purdue University Pocket Harvest Guide).


While binning corn after drying, clean the grain to remove as many of the remaining fines as possible. While soybeans rarely need drying beyond applying air, the same cleaning practices stated above help with keeping grain in good condition for long periods of storage time.

The ideal final moisture that grain should be dried to, depends on the length of time it is expected to be stored.In general, the longer the storage time, the lower the percent grain moisture. For instance, Iowa State University suggests drying corn to 15% moisture and soybeans to 13% moisture if stored until spring and 2% less moisture content for both if stored into the summer months. Grain should be cooled to 30-40 degrees to be stored through the winter.It is also suggested that the center of the bin be cored using a grain probe to remove fines accumulated and that the grain be leveled by half the peak height.These practices collectively will improve quality as it relates to fines and improve the ability to aerate the bin.

For more information on grain handling and storage contact your local FS Crop Specialist.

Grain Handling & Storage: An Art or a Science?