Stay in the green to reduce risk of grain spoilage

Late tillers might have upped moisture in your wheat and barley, says agronomist

Moisture and grain temperature when it hits the bin are the two key factors to watch for.
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Your cereals might have a higher moisture content than you might expect after a very dry summer, says an agronomist with Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley.

“After a dry early and mid-season, late tillers have emerged due to the later summer rains,” Jeremy Boychyn wrote in his Growing Point blog earlier this month ( “These late tillers increase moisture in the harvested grain and can create storage risks.”

Moisture and the temperature of grain when it goes into the bin are the two key factors, and Boychyn notes that the Canadian Grain Commission has charts for determining the spoilage risk.

Along with charts for cereals, the commission has ones for canola, peas, beans and mustard at (click on the ‘Grain quality,’ then on ‘Manage stored grains’ and ‘Manage storage to prevent infestations’ and finally ‘Prevent spoilage’).

They are divided into green and purple zones. Generally, seed going into the bin at a low temperature (such as 5 C) falls into the green (safe) zone unless the moisture content is very high. But the risk quickly goes up at higher temperatures. Measuring both moisture content and temperature as the crop goes into storage is recommended.

The storage risk profile for barley and canola is quite different. photo: Canadian Grain Commission

“If the result falls in the no spoilage zone, then your crop should store safely for up to five months — six months in the case of wheat. If it falls in the spoilage zone, spoilage will occur,” the website states.

However, there is a caveat.

“Be aware that the moisture content and temperature of a bulk may change during storage due to convection currents, leading to localized spoilage,” the website says. “Monitor the top centre of the bulk regularly throughout storage or use aeration.”

The ‘grain commission’s website also has information on monitoring and aerating stored crops and on preventing spoilage. (As well as monitoring for, and dealing with, insects that can get into grain bins.)

Grain “harvested at the ideal moisture range” can go straight into the bin (with some aeration if it needs to be cooled) but “this scenario is rarely the case,” writes Boychyn.

“Between variable tiller maturity and a short harvest season, harvesting the grain prior to ideal moisture content is commonly needed to avoid yield and quality loss,” he states. “This means post-harvest grain management must be implemented to condition the grain and reduce spoilage risk.”

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