Be Ready for Harvest

Taking the time to prepare now is a critical step that is often overlooked for drying and storage during harvestFollow this check list for steps and tips to prepare your equipment and storage structures to be ready to go for a trouble-free grain drying season.

Grain Bin and Dryer Preparation

With grain bins and dryers, it is important to take steps to ensure cleanliness of the storage structures before harvest starts. When these structures are clean, it helps prevent the grain from being contaminated by mold and insects. Before the season begins:

  • Remove last year’s grain from each bin and clean up remaining dust. Removal of all dust and fines will reduce the chance for insect infestation. Fumigate under floors and ducts that cannot be cleaned if an insect infestation occurred previously. Never mix or blend old crop grain or contaminated grain with the new crop.
  • Lock out all equipment that could accidentally start up while workers are cleaning the bin. Wear a dust mask when sweeping the bins. Avoid running fans during cleaning, fans can blow dust and molds that are harmful to workers. Avoid dust clouds by practicing good housekeeping and control the sources of ignition like high bearing temperature or belt slippage. When entering a bin filled with grain follow recommended safety procedures. Anyone entering a grain bin should have a body harness tethered to a lifeline with at least two others outside the bin; one should be able to see the person inside the bin while the second would have the ability to call the fire department or rescue squad for help. Locate all personal safety equipment and store it near the bins for easy access.
  • Check bin equipment and drying floors for any obstructions that may interfere with the operation of the unloading auger. Sweep the floor clean to make sure proper airflow can pass from the fan to the grain.
  • Remove old grain, weeds and trash from around the grain bin area so rodents will not have a place to nest or insects maintain a presence. Sanitation in and around the grain system requires constant attention and is very important for maintaining the value of your grain.
  • Inspect grain bin exhaust vents to ensure they are not clogged with bird nests or bees’ wings. Clogged vents can reduce airflow through the grain resulting in slower than expected drying rates. Clogged exhaust vents can also cause fans to over pressurize a bin and possibly causing roof damage.
  • Look around the outside of the bin for foundation cracks and seal any minor cracks to prevent them from enlarging.Check for wind damage that may have changed the shape of the bin or roof. Any structural damage to the bin could worsen with loading/unloading and fan operation, so it is best to identify any damage and repair it.
  • Level and shape the ground around the bins to provide good drainage and prevent water pooling. Standing water can support insects and perhaps indicate water inside the bin. Water inside the bin or near an aerator fan intake can increase the humidity of the air entering the grain and cause rewetting.

Equipment Preparation

During this time, it is also a good idea to take care of any repair and maintenance of the equipment used to dry and handle the grain to operate safely and prevent costly breakdowns. Prior to harvest:

  • Inspect and test all powered equipment to be sure it is in good working orderPerform any maintenance, adjustments, repair and lubrication, if needed. Begin this process far enough in advance to allow time to obtain parts for unanticipated repairs.

  • Be sure that all augers, conveyors, fans and heaters are cleaned, lubricated and functioning properly before the season. Check to be sure the fan blades rotate freely and in the proper direction (improper rotation direction may indicate electrical problems). Be sure augers and conveyors can start and run without problems, listen for potential bearing problems or interference that may be caused by a damaged housing, bird or rodent nests or clumps of spoiled grain. Make sure all fan screens, belt and chain guards, auger guards and safety shields are in place. Operate the fan to determine if the motor is functioning properly, rpm seems normal and air output is normal. Keep the operation time to a minimum, fans can cause floor stands to move out of place if the bin is empty. All safety precautions should be followed when checking and repairing augers and fans.

  • If gas heaters for bin drying are being used, check fan and heater wires for mouse damage and loose connectionsInspect gas lines and hoses for integrity and test for leaks. If the vaporizer ring is rusty and scaling there is a chance for a pin hole developing during the drying season. Inspect the burner for rust and insect nests and that the burner ports are clear and can provide flame along the entire burner.Make sure igniters are operating properly along with safety features such as flame detectors and airflow switches.

  • If you use a portable dryer check the gas lines and hoses for leaks and weathering. Also, check all wires and connections. Replace damaged wires and tighten loose connections. Clean out any remaining grain, check corners and ledges for clumps of fines and kernels left behind from the previous year. If possible, run some dry grain through the dryer to clean and polish up the screens and auger flights and ensure good grain flow through the dryer and accessory equipment. During this time the fans and heaters can be tested to avoid start-up problems when harvest begins. It is better to discover problems prior to harvest when there is time for repair than being unable to load the dryer with wet grain when a delay of only a day can result in spoiled grain.

Other Preparation Steps

Besides cleaning storage structures and repairing equipment, there are a few additional steps you can take now to be ready for harvest:

  • Fill fuel tanks and schedule deliveries according to anticipated needs.

  • Improve access to the grain drying and storage equipment area by relocating any equipment or parts that may interfere with trucks and traffic flow.

  • Consider installing a grain monitoring and control system. These management systems can maximize final grain quality while minimizing energy costs. Routinely monitor the system to be sure that it is functioning properly.

Once you finish this checklist, be sure to do a final inspection to make sure that the bins have been thoroughly cleaned and all other preparatory measures have been completedRemember to make sure the floor is clear, the unloader gates are closed and the sweep is in the proper location near the intermediate wells.

Contact your local FS Company for a grain system maintenance inspection, parts and service.