As a plant scientist by degree, I am trained to understand what traits lead to what performance in what field conditions. Seed genetics is a constantly-changing and exciting landscape to work in. But overall, the research and focus is on the performance of the genetics in the field. We have to remember that the genetic lives on well after it is harvested, all the way to the point that the grain is processed for ingredients, feed, energy, etc.
A key stop along this journey is storage. When you harvest and then fill the grain bin with your variety, it’s going to interact with its new environment in the bin. And each genetic has unique characteristics that causes it to interact a little differently in that environment than another variety would.
You’re not just storing generic corn or soy in the bin. You’re storing Dekalb DKC6744 or Croplan R2C2025 or whatever specific genetic you'll put in your bin at harvest this year. It would be incorrect, and in fact detrimental, to the safety and quality of that grain to treat it “generically.”
I’d like to offer a few key thoughts that you should keep in mind as you think about the impact seed variety plays in storage:
- Grain is trying to equilibrate with its bin environment. Every grain performs differently in storage because its traits affect the manner in which it absorbs and desorbs moisture in the air around it. When the grain and air are at equilibrium, there is no exchange of moisture with the grain and the surrounding air. If the grain is drier than the air around it, it will absorb that moisture to get to equilibrium. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it will desorb moisture if the air around it is drier. This is the desired effect when you run the fans on your bins – you’re pushing that drier air through the grain mass, and that air is picking up moisture from the grain and pushing it out of the grain mass (over time). Similarly, if you loaded an over-dry harvest (we see this so much with beans, wheat and sunflowers in particular), air with higher moisture can bring moisture back into that grain.
- Each grain is going to equilibrate differently. At IntelliFarms, we talk a lot about EMC curves. Each grain variety is going to have its own Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) curve, which is simply the relationship between the temperature, humidity and grain moisture content. While there can be a few other factors that affect a grain's EMC curve (for example, if the grain is very damaged), genetics play the largest impact in what the EMC curve of that grain is. This is critical: If you understand how your particular grain is going to behave and exchange moisture with the air in different temperatures or humidities, you are better equipped to manage the grain and your expectations. Specialized commodities will have very different curves than "generic" versions. For example, waxy corn, high-amylose corn and corn with hard endosperm will all have different curves than generic yellow dent corn. And genetics within those types of varieties will differ too. EMC curves are not limited to your standard commodity grains: Legumes, pulse crops, nuts and many more commodities all interact with moisture in the air, and each variety will have a unique curve.
- EMC science + technology = precision. Several years ago, we established the IntelliFarms University Grain Lab. In the Lab, we simulate the conditions grain would experience when it is stored to determine that unique EMC curve of each variety. We ask our customers to send us samples of their grain so we can run them through these tests. The data coming out of those tests is then programmed into our BinManager technology, making it available for our customers to select that specific variety in the BinManager system’s settings. Why is that important? Because BinManager now knows that it needs to run the fans and/or heaters a little differently than it would with a “generic” variety or another variety. It better understands when the outside conditions are perfect for the fans/heaters to run to get that particular variety of grain to target. The results prove it: We so often see a 1-2% moisture change once the exact variety is tested and selected and BinManager starts managing it according to its varietal differences. And the grain comes out at target.
- As a side note: Because having an EMC curve completed for your grain variety is so important, our YieldFax seed selection database highlights genetics that already have an EMC curve generated for them and are classified as "BinManager-optimized." When you're thinking about what seed to plant next season, we believe it's important to think about the seed's ability to be successful in the field and in storage.
- You want to get it right with your Moisture Content target. That’s stating the obvious. You may know what it feels like at the elevator when you don’t get moisture right. In addition to getting “ding-ed” there, there’s also an opportunity lost. Here’s what we mean: You select the grain you grow for a specific reason. You may select a variety for big yields. (Which, by the way, you definitely don't want to lose any of in storage.) You may also select the seed you do because you’re growing for a certain market or contract. Whether it’s high-protein wheat for milling, high-oleic beans to meet new needs of the oil market, popcorn for America’s movie theaters, etc. Those markets have very particular needs, and you’ve selected your seed to meet them. But poor storage management can cause you to compromise or even destroy the seed’s valuable characteristics. Being off in moisture even a little bit can mean that you’re not able to meet your premium requirements of some of these highly profitable markets. Therefore, it’s important that you know the unique EMC curve of your variety and that this information be used to set your storage up for managing it precisely. When you do that, your grain comes out as a high-quality product and you get high dollars for it.
We always extend an invitation to anyone in the industry to attend our IntelliFarms University Grain School, which is held once a month at our Archie, MO headquarters. We go more in-depth into this kind of information and help you better understand how to get the most value out of your grain from seed to market, including in the grain bin.
While you’re here, I'll give you a tour of our Grain Lab so you can understand how we process different varieties of grain. You'll definitely come away understanding why we're passionate about this piece of the storage equation. And if you're a customer, you'll understand why we put so much emphasis on filling those buckets and sending us your grain samples! (It's important to do this early to ensure your BinManager is ready to manage that variety when harvest hits).
At the end of the day, we’re working hard to help farmers get the most value out of your grain. Storing smartly is a key part of this.