Keeping up with the
Keeping grain in tip-top
condition during storage
has become as
important as growing
the crop well in the
field. Preserving quality,
demands and avoiding
pests and moulds is
vital. Over the following
pages we examine the
key issues for this
season and profile the
approaches adopted by
GRAIN storage improvements are failing to keep pace with production in the field, which is causing bottlenecks at harvest that could hold combines, warns one industry expert.
ADASs John Bailey says: "There is a fantastic revolution going on at the moment. Farms are growing in size and combine throughputs are increasing, but many storage systems are failing to keep up."
Less efficient farms, often with a lower investment track record, are being taken over and inadequate storage inherited.
"The basic problem with the indoor bin system is its a chain reaction – pit, elevator, pre-cleaner, wet bin capacity, dryer, outloading. You cant upgrade one without doing the lot."
Growers have to consider whether such stores are worthwhile
upgrading, he says. But efficiencies can be found before the grain even reaches the store.
"Start with trailers. Work out combine tank size and output, distance to the field, and how many trailers you need. Two big trailers often have the same capacity as three medium or five small ones.
"Fewer trailers means fewer tractors and fewer staff. They can also provide an element of temporary storage. At £7000-10,000, with a 15-20 year life span, a large trailer can be a good investment," says Mr Bailey.
Larger trailers may mean the pit cant take it all in one tip, but before money is spent on a new pit, make sure you really need to tip and go, he advises.
"You can often afford to have 10 minutes tipping at the pit. And a 3-5t pit, typical of the 50s-60s era may effectively be extended to 7t by adding sleepers around the perimeter, eliminating the need for total pit refurbishment."
Elevator bottlenecks can sometimes be improved by the addition of extra or larger cups on the belt. If upgrading, intake to the wet store holding is usually the first area to consider, he suggests.
Cost depends on size and length, but about £5000 should be budgeted for a single legged elevator replacement.
Pre-cleaners can also present a bottleneck, and Mr Bailey questions the need for grain to go through them on some farms.
"The need for pre-cleaning is much reduced nowadays, because of the general improvement in husbandry, chemical control and combine design. Many crops simply dont have a requirement for pre-cleaning post-harvest. Better to put your money elsewhere."
Continuous flow driers are the next, and arguably largest hurdle, to overcome. "These should be looked at with a degree of imagination and well costed out. Increasing wet holding and running the drier through the night could provide the best solution. You need to weigh up investment against short-term inconvenience," says Mr Bailey.
"Doubling up a 15-20t wet storage bin to 30-40t could cost £10-15,000. Provided the drier is kept going constantly, that may be all the system needs to keep up with the combine."
In addition, many farms are now introducing pre-drying in-bin or on-floor storage with low volume ventilation. Such dual-purpose facilities, done properly at a cost of £10/t, can mix and match with existing drying facilities and take pressure off immediate drying. Grain at 18% moisture content could be kept for several months if need be, he says.
"There are very few years when you dont get a fair tonnage in that doesnt need drying."
Investment in a local co-operative can be another approach, sending excess wet loads in and accepting drying charges, he suggests. "But its not cheap so you do need to weigh this up against capital outlay."
Adding stirrers to a flat store with on-floor drying is another way to increase throughput of wet grain, effectively creating a large batch drier. Typical cost would be £12-15,000, he says.
• Use large trailers.
• Expand intake pit.
• Increase wet holding?
• Run drier 24 hours.
More to it than throughput
Store throughput is not the only area falling behind advances elsewhere on the farm, says ADASs John Bailey. Overall capacity is also being stretched by higher yields and extra land. "Many farms visited just 4-5 years ago with 4-500 acres of cropped land are now closer to 8-900 acres as a result of FBTs, contract farming or land purchase," he says. Most growers with flatstores have already gone down the avenue of restricting varieties to bulk up storage lots. Now, increasing the depth of onfloor storage by adding boards, temporary walling or reducing front peak by changing doorways might squeeze an extra 100t into a 1000t flatstore, at a cost of about £1000, he suggests.
"But be sure that the tunnel and walling can take that extra depth
and ensure grain is carefully levelled."