By Emily Folk
From pasta to beer, we can thank grain for a variety of our favorite foods and beverages. The popularity of this simple crop has made it a staple in many farming operations. If you're planning to grow it on your land — or you could use a little help with storage — we'll walk you through everything you need to know.
Here are 10 easy tips to help you on your way.
1. Don't Worry Too Much Over Compost
The majority of grains have low fertility requirements, so you don't have to spend too much on compost if you're concerned about growth. You'll only have to lay down compost if the soil quality is extremely poor. It's relatively easy to grow and harvest grains as long as you know the type of grain you're dealing with and its specific needs.
2. Cover Seeds With a Thin Layer of Straw
Once you've planted your seeds, spread a thin layer of straw over the soil. It's a smart precaution that will keep your crops safe from any peckish birds. The straw will also help with conserving the moisture in the soil, facilitating growth as you soak the area from time to time for germination.
3. Downsize Your Equipment If Necessary
You don't need to own heavy equipment to harvest your grain. Depending on the size of your operation, you can manage your crops with a scythe, thresh them with a stick and winnow them by using a household fan. A blender can double as a pretty effective mill, so get creative if you're starting out with a smaller patch.
4. Prepare Your Grain Bins Before Storage
The cleanliness of your grain bins is crucial to storage, so it's essential to clear out the remaining contents. You might find insects that were hiding in your leftover grain. If this is the case, you should fumigate the bin at least five full weeks before you store new grain, preventing any issues with a potential infestation.
5. Choose Urethane Lining for Your Equipment
Did you know that roughly one-third of the world's grain stock is lost or damaged during storage? Using equipment with urethane lining will help reduce your losses when managing crops. An increasing number of growers have invested in customized grain moving equipment to address issues with grain damage and preserve their crops.
6. Don't Combine New Grain With Old Reserves
It's ill-advised to mix your new grain with the grain you've already stored. Mixing grain which isn't stable with your existing reserves will create issues with storage later on. If you absolutely have to mix grain to make room for this year's harvest, and you have no other choice, combine your older crops together.
7. Dry Grain to the Correct Moisture Content
Your long-term plans for storage may go awry if you don't maintain the correct moisture content. When storing corn for the maximum amount of time, you'll need to dry it to 13%, keeping soybeans at 11% and wheat at 12.5%. Just remember that selling grain under 14% moisture content will reduce its weight.
8. Determine the Weight and Quality of Your Grain
On the subject of weight, it's a strong indicator of good storage properties. A higher test weight is appealing if you're planning to keep the grain in storage for an extended period, with the optimal weight above 58 pounds per bushel. You'll also want the majority of your kernels to have no cracks to prevent issues with mold.
9. Keep Your Grain Below a Certain Temperature
Aeration is the process of cooling your grain with ambient air after you've dried it. It's an effective way to manage any mold development or insect activity. As for proper protocol, you'll need to maintain the right temperature, running your bin fans to keep your grain below 40 degrees throughout the late spring and summer.
10. Monitor Your Grain on a Semi-Regular Basis
It's important to monitor your grain to ensure its continued security. The frequency of your check-ins will change depending on factors like the initial grain quality, temperature, moisture content and any extreme weather events. As a general rule, check your grain every one to two weeks in fall, spring and summer, and in winter, check it once a month.
Make the Necessary Changes Today
As you review your operation, consider the 10 tips above. You'll see it's easy to grow and store grain when you follow a few simple rules. With that in mind, look over your current practices and make the necessary changes today.
About the author: Emily is a sustainability writer and avid gardener. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks, where she writes about helping tomorrow’s planet today.