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Preserving the Pop: Maintaining popcorn quality in storage

22 Jun 2017
by Addison Boatwright

POSTED IN grain storage
POSTED IN SureTrack
POSTED IN Grain management
POSTED IN BinManager
POSTED IN Grain variety
POSTED IN grain profits
POSTED IN popcorn

Preserving the Pop: Maintaining popcorn quality in storage

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So many bags of popcorn are sold daily in grocery stores, movie theaters, and carnivals that the work put into each and every kernel can be taken for granted. From the time it's planted to when it's sold, popcorn requires specialty management in order to reach and maintain optimum "pop-ability" - the key to its value. We are fortunate to be able to work with a number of popcorn producers around the country on managing their popcorn in storage to preserve the quality required for pop-ability.

Below are a few facts about popcorn and its unique characteristics that factor into how it is managed:

  • What does "pop-ability" mean? "Pop-ability," as the name suggests, determines the number of kernels that go un-popped in microwave, oil-cooked, and hot air-cooked popcorn. Un-popped kernels, also called “old maids,” are not only annoying but can also chip teeth and become a choking hazard.
  • What leads to un-popped kernels? Of the several factors that can lead to an un-popped kernel, low moisture content is one of the most common. Most popcorn is harvested at 15%-17% moisture and needs to be dried down to 13.5%-14%, where the kernel is optimally ripe for pop-ability. Often, unmonitored or un-managed storage systems will run too much dry air through and over-dry the kernels.
  • How do you manage popcorn to maximize "pop-ability?" There are several guiding principles for good grain storage management of popcorn:
    • Uniformity inside of a storage unit is extremely important for popcorn quality and can be difficult to achieve with an un-managed aeration system. Maintaining a uniform moisture content can help to prevent a majority of un-popped or cracked kernels.
    • Popcorn does not easily absorb or desorb moisture, so when a crop begins to get out of condition it can be extremely difficult to fix it and could result in a lost crop. Systems like a BinManager, that control airflow into a storage unit, are critical tools in popcorn management to reach and maintain that narrow window (13-14%) of optimum moisture.
    • Popcorn has a wide this variance in Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) curves. EMC is the moisture content of a hygroscopic material at which it is neither gaining nor losing moisture, and an EMC curve depicts the variance of EMC at different relative humidities and temperatures (read more on this here). Popcorn, like most grains today, has different varieties that are selected for specific traits. These traits change not only how the grain reacts in the field, but also inside a bin as well. Popcorn may have up to a 1% shift in the specific EMC curve from variety to variety, which is crucial for storage managers to know! IntelliFarms University Grain Lab is equipped to test all grain varieties, including popcorn, to determine a variety's unique EMC curve and allow IntelliFarms' management technology to manage that variety with precision.

With popcorn, it comes down to understanding the characteristics of your variety and keeping (ideally, with technology) a close watch on the grain's in-storage conditions to aerate it appropriately. Because of its narrow window of moisture content, it can be a trickier to manage popcorn in storage, but good outcomes can lead to premiums and big profit potential.

Empowering farmers with the tools to manage grain for high-quality and high-value is why we've developed our SureTrack Farm platform. Whether you are growing and managing popcorn or peas, soy or sorghum, the platform is designed to help you manage for the quality of that grain from the point it emerges from the ground to the point that it is emptied from your bin and on the road to market. Contact us today to learn about how IntelliFarms SureTrack platform, which is integrated with BinManager technology, can help you get the outcomes and profits you want.