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Weather continues to impact grain quality

October 19, 2018
By KRISS NELSON - Farm News news editor ( , Farm News


Heavy rains, cool temperatures, and a blanket of snow that covered most of the state of Iowa on Sunday have harvest slowed practically to a standstill over the last few weeks.

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Grain molds such as fusarium and Giberella fungus are prevalent throughout the state of Iowa in corn fields due to overly wet conditions Mother Nature has thrown at producers this fall.

Those wet conditions continue to affect the quality of the corn and soybeans that are left out in the field.

Charlie Hurburgh, agricultural and biosystems engineer for Iowa State University, said lodged corn issues are increasing every day.

"The corn stalks get mushy and so the lodged corn problem increases, and that increases the amount of susceptibility to mold and other deterioration in the downed corn," he said.

What does this mean for grain delivery this fall?

"I would assume in those areas that are ethanol driven and using it for hog feed, anybody feeding corn and the DDGs are going to have to pay attention," he said. "Ethanol plants are going to be testing, I am sure. They may not be testing every load, they may keep a piece of each load, throw it in a bucket and test it to help understand if there is a problem in their trade area if not, there is no point going to extra effort, but they are probably testing now."

The two molds Hurburgh said that are primary concerns this year are fusarium, which causes fumonisin, and Giberella fungus, which causes vomitoxin.

Hurburgh said it is unknown just how big of a problem this will be, but noted pigs are sensitive to vomitoxins.

"It doesn't mean we'll have a huge problem or if we'll have no problems, but certainly the ingredients for having one are there," he said.

Looking forward, Hurburgh said producers shouldn't expect much for natural drying of the corn or soybeans in the field after these large moisture events.

"We got a frost, and that is good because it will kill any remaining plant life out there, but it will also be a little tough on the soybeans because wet soybeans, when frozen, will tend to split out of the pods," he said. "We will probably see some field shattering of soybeans and I don't think we will get much more drying of soybeans either going forward."

Typically, Hurburgh said, after soybeans have dried down at the beginning of harvest, if they are re-wetted, and the ground is wet and the humidity at ground level is high, then you don't usually get a lot of field drying after that.

"Whatcha got is whatcha got and I think we'll probably see 14 to 16 percent soybeans where the ones that are still in the field will end up," he said.

Producers may be forced to dry soybeans down before commercial delivery.

Fortunately, Hurburgh said, soybeans will lose moisture if they are dried and air drying is a good option for soybeans.

"You can usually, with just aeration, get the moisture down and the key right now for everybody is to run the fans, there's just plain wetter corn and wetter beans and we need to get them cold," he said.

Hurburgh said some tips to drying soybeans begin with using low temperature heat or air only.

"We don't want to use temperatures over 120 degrees. That's about the top end of what you want to use," he said. "You don't want to get the beans hot. They will split, hulls will come off and we don't want to do that. Air is the best way, of course if you have all humid air, you can't do much, but that is the best way to dry soybeans. Dry them slowly."

Hurburgh pointed out that there is a real fire hazard for drying soybeans.

"They're an oilseed, and hulls come off, they catch fire and once soybeans start burning you're not going to put them out. You're not going to put them out with water, I guarantee, because it's an oil fire," he said. "You don't want to put a lot of heat on soybeans."

If soybeans are at 15 percent moisture, Hurburgh said that is about like 17 percent corn from a storage management perspective.

"If you can get it cold and freezing's not bad," he said. "If you can get them cold, you can buy yourself some time and perhaps get to a better weather for air drying."

Storing beans at 15 percent is manageable, but anything higher can be a challenge.

"If you get up to 16, 17 or 18, that's rough to carry them, even frozen," he said. "I think you probably will want to dry them then."

Whether you are storing corn or soybeans, Hurburgh said you need to avoid just letting wet grain sit.

"That's a bad deal right now," he said. "If the storage life has already been reduced with all of this re-wetting in the fields, standing in the field wet and so forth, you don't want to reduce it anymore by letting it sit there without aeration."

If you are drying corn, Hurburgh said you will want to warm up the grain and do that as quickly as you can.

"If you have a bin dryer, for corn, run it towards the top end of whatever the manufacturers recommend for stirrating bin driers that's probably going to be 140 degrees, maybe 150 tops," he said. "Run them warm, because we don't want the grain to get warmed up and not get dried quickly."

In that case, Hurburgh added, the mold problem will only get worse.

"It's already there, it will get worse. We want to get it dry as quickly as possible and if you can't get them dry, get them cold," he said.

Scout fields

Should a producer be out scouting before they return to the field? Hurburgh said yes.

"Particularly in corn. You want to scout the fields the best you can and look for mold on the ears," he said.

If you are finding a white mold, that is vomitoxin from the Giberella fungus. Pink molds is fumonisin from the fusarium fungus.

"Those that are showing mold, No. 1 you don't want to store it very long, you don't want to plan to keep it too long and you want to get it dried quickly. And if you're feeding your own, it might be worth asking your veterinarian to send a sample in to get tested. You should know before you feed," he said. "If it was visibly moldy, your risk is a little higher and you really want to know it."

Chances are there are other molds that can be growing out in the fields, such as black molds, but some of those may not need to be a concern.

"They look bad, but they don't produce the toxin and so it doesn't really hurt the feed value that much," he said.

Hurburgh advises if you are seeing mold, to contact your crop insurance agent.

"If you are seeing it you ought to at least contact your crop insurance agent and ask them what they are doing about it," he said. "There are several things they can do. They can leave strips and they will take samples out of the strips and make an adjustment, they can work with whatever the buyer test results are too. There are a number of ways they can do it."

It's no secret getting corn and soybeans out of the field is imperative.

"Getting the crops out is important," he said. "It's not going to get any better now. Fortunately, with good drying and cooling and getting that grain cool and in aerated storage, the mold situation, typically, won't get worse in storage."



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