Temporary grain storage may be an option


Tony Nye - OSU Extension



Having some time to drive around the county during the Thanksgiving holiday proved that there are still some crops to be harvested. The weather this next week appears to be favorable so I am hopeful area producers can finish.

As producers are finishing, some terminals in Ohio are experiencing some transportation issues to move grain out via rail. It is unknown when the ability to accept grain at some terminals will improve. This situation may put some farmers without storage, or storage that is full, in a difficult position to complete the 2021 harvest.

If you find yourself in this position here locally, there may be some alternatives to investigate, and the worse scenario would be to leave the crop in the field until delivery is available. If trucking to farther delivery points is not a viable option, temporary storage may be.

Flat storage in a farm building, a grain pile or utilizing storage bags may be alternatives but with some caution. The most critical factor in alternative storage is keeping grain dry and cool. That means it must be dry and cool going into the storage facility.

Aeration is not an option in most alternative storage situations. According to OSU Extension professionals Greg LaBarge and Amanda Douridas, there are some general considerations regardless of the alternative chosen:

What is the current grain moisture? Corn should be below 15 percent, and soybeans should be under 13 percent moisture before going into alternative storages. Accompanying this article is a chart that shows how many days grain can be stored at different temperature and moisture conditions.

Does the storage have options for aeration? When the grain needs to be moved in the spring will be affected by the ability to manage the climate. No aeration means moving the grain before planting.

How can grain be loaded for transport?

When it comes to production, high fertilizer costs for the coming year may be another issue for area producers to sort through. In this week’s CORN newsletter at Ohio State University, soil specialist Steve Culman, and agronomy specialists, Greg LaBarge and Harold Watters consider the Implications of High N Fertilizer Prices on Corn N Fertilizer Recommendations.

Nitrogen fertilizer is a major cost in corn production and is a big lever that drives yield. However, not every pound of N fertilizer yields the same return on investment. The first several dozen pounds applied to a corn crop yields large returns in grain, with subsequent pounds still offering returns, but not as effective as before.

As N fertilizer rates approach what would be typically applied to corn (150 – 200 lbs N/acre), each additional pound returns less and less and eventually reaches a point where the small increases in grain yield does not pay for the additional pound of N fertilizer applied.

This is not a hypothetical. It’s the normal. It’s what we see year after year in the majority of N rate trials we run across the state. And that’s why Land Grant Universities in the Midwest have universally adopted an economic model to N fertilizer rates in corn. It’s called the maximum return to nitrogen (MRTN) because it seeks to do just this, provide a rate where you will get the greatest return to your N investment and therefore grow the most profitable corn possible.

So, what is the magic peak where adding an additional pound of N fertilizer doesn’t pay for itself? It depends of course! It depends on the current price of corn grain and N fertilizer. As fertilizer prices increase, the peak comes at lower N rates. But as grain prices increase, the peak comes at higher N rates. Both fertilizer and grain prices are higher than they’ve been in some time, so they work against each other in terms of increasing or decreasing the N fertilizer recommended rate.

Table 1 shows the price of nitrogen fertilizer at various costs per pound and the equivalent per ton price of two familiar nitrogen sources used in Ohio. Table 2 shows Ohio recommended nitrogen rate for corn following soybean at various price combinations for corn and nitrogen. First, select the nitrogen price (column), then select the corn price (row). The cell where the selections intersect is the recommended nitrogen rate.

With current fertilizer and grain prices, our recommended corn N rates are 15-20 lbs/acre less this year than they have been in years past. This might cause some growers to pause and consider if this is really a good idea, but if you want to maximize your profitability, lower rates will ensure you’re not applying additional fertilizer that isn’t yielding a high enough return to pay for itself.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

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Tony Nye

OSU Extension