OTTUMWA — Before farmers rush to the fields to plant the crops that will grow in 2020, some are currently rushing to haul off the corn crop of 2019.

Many farmers put grain in the bin wetter than normal last fall due to last spring’s record amount of late planting. The late planting and replant acres did not dry in the field as much as normal last fall. While somewhat rescued by the cold weather that kept the corn in condition, the warmer temperatures of the past month has required higher-moisture corn to either be dried or hauled out of the bins to prevent quality loss and mold growth.

“If anyone has wet grain in storage that they’re trying to keep cool, now is the time to move and dry it or move it to town,” said Charlie Hurburgh, professor-in-charge of the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative at Iowa State University. “We won’t have very many opportunities now to dry that corn in bins.”

While the coronavirus has had a negative impact on the wide array of job markets, elevators like Heartland Co-op in Fairfield are looking for full- or part-time help, including openings for truck drivers that will do farm pickups. The allowable storage time of corn, according to Hurburgh, is shorter than normal estimates.

“Of the grain that’s still in storage across the state, I would guess about 25 percent is at a higher moisture,” Hurburgh said. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to spoil, but it’s a good candidate unless (farmers) can either get it out (of the bin) or dry it.”

Vicki Lane at Heartland Co-op says the amount of traffic through the Fairfield plant has been steady. The product being brought in, however, has been unpredictable in terms of moisture level.

“Usually at this time, you normally see corn that tests at 16 percent or below,” Lane said. “Not this year. It’s been so up and down, but we’ve seen a lot of corn that has been testing between 17-20 percent. We’re looking for corn testing at 15 percent moisture. There’s been much less brought in below that level.”

Wetter corn, or poor quality grain in the bin can cause problems such as surface crusting, hollow spots in the grain mass, grain that won’t flow when unloading, and sidewall buildup in the bin. Hurburgh is reminding all farmers to use good grain safety practices even in the most extreme of situations.

“Grain hung up along the walls is the most sensitive spot in the bin. If the auger quits running, do not go in there to dislodge it,” Hurburgh said. “If you can’t dislodge it by beating on the bin walls, if your sweep auger or stirators won’t move it, the only alternative is to cut a hole in the side of the bin to release some of the grain pressure; opening it from the outside will cause the grain to fall down into the bottom.

“Otherwise, it’s very risky. Most of the engulfment occurs when grain breaks free.”

Farmers that have good quality grain and must enter a bin are reminded by Hurburgh to have an observer with you, use a life harness and lockout/tagout grain equipment to keep it off.

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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