Storage problems likely with bumper corn crop

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Farmers should look now for storage options for 2014's bumper corn harvest.

University of Missouri Extension specialist Bill Wiebold said farmers may hold onto corn this year to sell it when prices increase. Corn is trading at about $3.60 a bushel, down from the record of more than $8.30 a bushel in 2012.

The most recent USDA Crop Report predicts Missouri corn harvest at 160 bushels per acre, the second highest yield on record. Production is expected to be up 22 percent, 24 bushels per acre, from 2013.

Growing conditions were favorable in the 18 states that produce 91 percent of the nation's corn. And some producers still have 2012 corn crop in bins, Wiebold said.

Richard Fordyce, Missouri agriculture department director, said Thursday at the State Fair that the state's Grain and Inspection and Warehousing Division is reaching out to farmers and commercial grain elevators to help. "It's got to go somewhere," he said.

Some corn in the Bootheel region of Missouri has already reached black layer stage of development and shelling may begin as early as next week, said Anthony Ohmes, MU Extension agronomy specialist in Cape Girardeau County.

Frank Wideman, MU Extension natural resources engineer, said Bootheel-area farmers are talking about alternative ways to store corn. "A lot of the farming community would like to hold onto grain in hopes that prices improve over the winter," Wideman said.

Some are modifying existing structures such as machine sheds or hay barns, he said. These structures are not intended for grain storage but producers are fortifying them with wood and adding moisture-proof liners.

Others are contracting with commercial grain elevators for storage. Some are considering plastic bag tubes, temporary plastic bag storage systems up to the length of a football field and 7-8 feet in diameter. They are meant to hold grain for one season, Wideman said.

He said silage has been stored in these tubes for several years. There are differences between corn and silage storage, however.

Silage and corn with high moisture content can be successfully stored in tubes for feeding to livestock.

Corn must be dried prior to storage if it is to be sold later. Corn storage in tubes has some risk including fermentation. Unlike silage that is packed tightly, corn can be damaged when animals and birds put holes in the tubes in an attempt to gain access to corn. This allows rain or snow to enter the tube and cause damage.

Drying means extra costs and tubes cost about 7-8 cents per bushel, similar to the cost of commercial storage. However, producers incur extra labor costs and corn is reduced in quality and quantity.

A vacuum-type conveyor can be used to suck it up and blow it into a grain truck. A tractor with a front-end loader also can be used to load corn into the grain truck. Labor costs increase and value decreases with either method.

Farmers stored 11.78 billion bushels of grain on farms in 2012, according to the latest data available from the USDA. That was up 20 percent from 2002.

Rail traffic and other transportation issues also are likely for producers and commercial grain handlers this year, Wiebold said.

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