Things have finally wound down with harvest, producers are just now getting the chance to clean and perform maintenance on their farm equipment, and they are taking a big sigh of relief knowing that their crop is sitting safely in their bins. Or are they?

Sadly, a farmer’s work is never done; once the crop is binned it’s not as easy as storing it and forgetting about it. Even if the producer took all the necessary precautions prior to binning, such as ensuring the bins are weatherproofed, and the seed has been dried to the recommended moisture levels, the risk of spoilage has not yet been eliminated.

After the grain is dried, respiration from microbial activity can still cause heating; this heat can cause moisture and humidity to accumulate at either the top of the bin as crusting, or the middle of the bin as a hot spot. According to Iowa State University, the damage caused by just 3-4 degrees of temperature increase in the middle of your bin could be enough to cause problems.

Proper grain storage is of the utmost importance, on a microbiological level, when grain is too moist and left in a bin the ideal environment is created for a host of pathogens including various types of molds and fungi, as well as higher instances of insect infestation. These can cause the very structure of the seed to be compromised and can lead to problems such as reduced seed quality and germination capacity, variations in biochemical content, or a number of moisture borne toxins.



There are a number of warning signs to look for to reduce risk:

  1. Moisture accumulation on the outside of the bin in any form (ice, snow, frost, dew), whether it is the roof, hatches, or vents.

2. Look for the presence of ice, frost, or moisture accumulation on the seed. You may also see a wet slippery or slimy film, or crusting upon the grain.  Does the seed smell sour, musty, or old?

3. Use a bin probe to reach the middle of the bin where hot spots are most commonly found.  If you feel any sort of compact or hard spots, this is a sign of moisture accumulation.  If possible, attach a thermometer to the end of the probe to get a temperature reading, the temperature of your grain bin should never increase from when it was first binned.

Perform this three step check periodically to keep your crop safe.


Written and Published by Jessica Kohls BSc, PGCe – Dutch Biologist
References & Futher Reading

Unknown, “Check Your Grain Bins before the New Year to Reduce Spoilage Issues. Crop Chatter, 31 Oct. 2014.

Chawla, K. 1984. Management of Cereal Grain in Storage. [online] Available at:$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex4509 [Accessed: 28 Feb 2014].

Copeland, L.O. Principles of Seed Science and Technology.  Minneapolis: Burgess Pub., 1976. Print.

Hurburgh, Charles. “Have You Checked Your Grain Bin?” (1997): 1-2.Https:// Iowa State University, Mar. 1997. Web.

Agnew, Joy. “Where the Iron Hits the Dirt: Back to the basics for better grain storage. “Farming for Tomorrow”, Oct. 2014: 4-5. Article in Print.