Grain Bin Monitoring Is The Key To Successful Storage

The granary of the mid-western United States is impressive. During summer months, fields of corn, wheat, soybeans and other cash crops stretch for miles, ready to produce the highest yields of any agricultural area on the planet. Storing this bounty allows farmers to market it throughout the year, but maintaining that harvested product requires diligent oversight. Modern grain bin monitoring helps provide farmers with the most up-to-date information.

Landscape artists frequently choose picturesque barns with aging silos as their subjects. While most city dwellers understand the function of a silo, they may not be aware that most commercial farming operations store harvested crops in enormous centrally located bins, or in huge containers on location. These structures are far bigger than most silos, and create unique monitoring issues, some of which can involve danger.

In the past, farmers relied on their own experience to gauge the condition of stored harvests. Although instinct plays an important role in analysis, it is nearly impossible to accurately estimate the daily moisture variations taking place in a 135,000 bushel storage facility without technological assistance, which can also make the process safer. Moist kernels sometimes form a hard, crusty cap during storage, preventing outflow.

In order to release it, workers used to walk on top to crack through the top layer. This created the very real chance of accidents, and some suffocated under tons of loosened material. Installing mechanized monitors reduces that possibility, and allows workers to better determine moisture content at any time. Although it has already been harvested, grain is still alive, and creates temperature variations.

Compacted organic material makes an excellent insulator, and when undisturbed over time, induces very slow-moving convection currents that result in hot spots, or excess moisture condensation. If the cycle is unbroken, insect populations proliferate, and fungus or mold takes over. Aeration is a method of forcing cooler, drier upward through the entire pile, reducing water content and condensation.

The latest weapon against crop deterioration is the installation of digital monitoring. In past decades, some growers relied on intelligent guesswork to prevent spoilage and shrinkage, but that changed dramatically, partially as a result of increased methanol production using plant material. Huge new amounts of stored organic material made the need for efficient controls even more obvious, but universal adoption has been slow-moving.

Today, the bottom line for agribusiness is largely determined by electronic storage management systems. These networks utilize temperature and moisture sensors that have been strategically installed at critical points within a facility. Each feeds constant streams of data to the master controller. In turn, that device can make adjustments to both thermostats and fans when necessary, reducing moisture levels.

These systems utilize both analog and digital technology, and transmit information on an Internet or local network connection. While the cost of installation and maintenance is significant, the savings are even greater. When a farmer is able to consistently provide high-quality grain year round to buyers, they will receive the maximum payment according to the current market. Labor costs decrease, as do the chances of economic loss from spoilage.

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