It’s not unusual to hear about a canola bin heating up over the winter from not being checked, and in some extreme cases even catching fire. A 25,000-bushel bin of canola at around $10 per bushel is a lot of money to lose ($250,000), and that’s why monitoring your grain is so important. It’s crucial to check your bins to prevent grain from heating up or spoiling.
The increasingly popular, large, flat bottom bins are usually equipped with temperature cables. However, I encourage temperature cables to be installed in every bin, whether it’s a hopper combo or large, flat bottom bin. The ability to monitor your grain in the bin could mean the difference between a large profit and a disaster.
Another benefit of temperature cables and monitoring your grain is when growing a specialty crop, such as malt barley, you can show buyers the temperature of the grain when it went into the bin, the temperature you cooled the grain down to, and the temperature the bin was maintained at throughout the winter. This way the buyer can be assured the quality of the grain he is buying is as good as the day it went into the bin.
Over the last few years, moisture sensors have been added to the grain monitoring toolbox. For example, a cable was only able to tell the temperature in a bin, but now you can monitor the moisture of the grain and watch the drying front moving up through the entire 4000-bushel hopper bin when you’re doing natural air drying.
Typically, grain isn’t dried in the large, flat bottom bins, but there are some operations that do. To dry grain in these bins, a 25- to 30-horsepower, three-phase fan is required, rather than a 10-horsepower single phase fan to aerate the bin. Moisture cables can be installed also to monitor the natural air grain-drying process.
I really like the wireless bin monitoring systems as you don’t have to check the bins because they check themselves. If a temperature sensor starts to heat up, the monitoring system sends a text message or email directly to the farmer’s cell phone, indicating the temperature change and the bin and cable numbers affected. The alert signals the operator to turn on the fan.
With some monitoring systems, fan functions can be controlled from a cell phone. Imagine turning on a fan from your sun lounger on a beach in Mexico in January.
Whether it’s keeping an eye on grain temperature, or temperature and moisture, monitoring your grain is like putting money in the bank — you know that the grain is safe and being looked after. The cost of cables or even a wireless monitoring system is a small one when compared with the large investment it’s protecting in the bin, and the peace of mind is priceless.