On-farm grain storage structures are trending toward bigger, taller and stronger configurations that can be erected more quickly than ever before. Thanks to new engineering innovations, bigger bins also can be built with better protection for grain quality.

“The trend is that everybody is going bigger and choosing a large bin that takes up less real estate than multiple, smaller bins,” says John Hanig, bin sales director, Sukup Manufacturing Company, Sheffield, Iowa. “Farmers who are able to purchase and install a new, high-capacity grain bin system have nicer setups that can dump grain quicker and maintain grain quality better than commercial elevators could 15 years ago,” he says. “Our largest bin is now 156 ft. in diameter, with 1.54 million bushels of storage capacity and a 50k load-rated, clear-span roof.”

In January, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) presented Sukup with two awards for outstanding innovations. The awards were for the new Modular Tower Dryer and Triangle Aeration Duct.

“Our Triangle Aeration Duct enables you to aerate a hopper-bottom bin at deeper grain depths than was previously possible,” Hanig says. “It mounts on the hopper cone pattern, and its strength and airflow capabilities help it to withstand the weight and pressure from greater grain depths and provide greater grain quality than traditional round ducts.”

Sukup’s Modular Tower Dryer increases the cost-effectiveness for dryer setup and large-capacity heat/vacuum, cool grain drying. “(It) is designed for mid- to large-size farmers to provide a 1,000- to 1,500-bu./hr. drying capacity,” Hanig says. “It’s built in sections that can easily stack together on-site, so the erection time is less than a day. The advantage to the modular dryer is that you can put up a commercial-quality dryer quickly at a reasonable cost.”

 

Faster fill rates

Another grain bin manufacturing company, GSI, also recently unveiled an innovative grain storage system that significantly improves on-farm grain-handling efficiency.

“Our customers are asking for more storage capacity and faster fill rates, and we’re providing it for them,” says Scott Becker, GSI storage product manager, Assumption, Ill. “Our new 40-Series grain bin features a Z-Tek Roof System, which increases peak weight capacity at the top of the bin from 10,000 to 30,000 lbs. to accommodate larger grain conveyors for faster fill rates. The increased flat-top size of our largest bins also helps provide more room to fit a large conveyor.”

GSI’s improvements in grain storage efficiency are being made with better grain quality and cost in mind, Becker notes. “We’re helping provide greater control over grain temperature, with grain temperature cable brackets that come standard with the bin,” he says. “We’ve moved the roof exhausters to the roof peak to pull air off the entire length of the bin to reduce potential moisture condensation problems. Our new design also decreases the time spent during construction, which helps lower cost.”

 

More profit potential

On-farm storage gives growers the opportunity to hold onto their grain longer, snatch any higher prices that might occur after harvest, and take control of storage costs, says Chad Hart, Iowa State University agricultural economist. “On-farm storage extends the marketing window to help farmers find a better price,” he says. “Generally, it gives farmers a cheaper per-bushel storage cost, but the disadvantage is that the farmers have to spend their own time and effort to properly maintain their crop while it’s in storage.”

Part of the storage cost that a farmer would normally pay to a grain elevator is for sweat equity, Hart says. “If you store it on the farm, it becomes your sweat equity, not theirs, but it’s more work for you,” he points out. “When fans and dryers break down, or hot spots develop, it’s up to you to fix it. There’s more risk involved in storing it on the farm. Even a small drop in quality can mean a large drop in value on a large-capacity bin.”

In some cases, the value of the grain in an on-farm bin is worth $9 million, Becker says.

Still, if managed well, “historically, farmers who store grain on their own farms end up reaping better prices and better returns,” Hart says. “It also provides a feeling of being in control, including control over drying costs and moisture levels.”

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As corn yields continue to go up annually, the need for more grain storage capacity also continues to increase. “More bushels of corn are coming from the same fields, year after year, so the need for more storage is growing,” Hart says.

Farmers interested in building a new grain bin should act sooner rather than later. “The time frame on how soon a bin can be built varies by the dealer, the size of the bin and the time of the year,” GSI’s Becker says. “It’s best if customers start planning for a new bin in November-December, but the sooner the planning starts, the better it is for prompt construction.”

Sukup’s Hanig points out that wait times and costs for building bins are lower during spring than right before harvest. “There’s not a lot of carry in the market right now, so farmers are less anxious to put more grain bins up on their farms as they were last year,” he says. “Right now, new bins are available in a relatively short time frame.”

Hanig also notes, “Rather than building onto an antiquated setup, many farmers are choosing to build on new ground. They are starting over on a new, bare site or a green-field setup.”