With harvest just around the corner, this is a good time to clean and repair your grain storage bins. This can help ensure a better quality grain product at delivery, says University of Nebraska Extension ag engineer Dave Shelton.

First, take a close look at the bin exterior and check for structural problems such as an uneven or broken foundation and gaps between the bottom of a bin and its foundation.

Gaps create unwanted entryways for insects, rodents and moisture. These spaces also allow air to escape that would otherwise be used to cool or dry grain. Applying caulk in these gaps and securing anchor bolts will keep out unwanted pests and moisture and increase operating efficiency.

Insect and rodent infestations can be a serious problem for grain producers. Remember that a little prevention now often is cheaper and more effective than extermination later. To reduce the potential for pests, mow the bin site and clean up any spilled grain that might attract pests. Bins not currently used for storage should be kept clean to prevent pests from migrating into storage areas as well.

If insects have been a problem in the past, it may be wise to treat the infected bin with an approved insecticide. Apply it two to three weeks before harvest, paying close attention to seams, corners and other crevices where insects are likely to congregate. Follow label application and safety instructions to ensure no harm is done to the individual applying the insecticide or the environment.

On occasion, producers may need to re-grade the soil around a bin to help water drain away from the foundation following heavy rains. Producers should also check the sides and roof of a bin for possible leaks. Wet grain allows the rapid growth of mold and having to run fans to dry grain that is continually re-wet is a waste of time and money.

Fans, wiring and other electrical components, as well as heaters, transitions and ducts need to be checked regularly to make sure they are in proper repair and working correctly. Replace corroded or cracked parts and reroute exposed wiring through waterproof conduit. Check for secure electrical connections as well.

Ensure that the bin interior also is clean. Even a small amount of old grain that contains mold or insects can infest an entire bin of new grain. Use a broom, shovel and shop vacuum to make sure all old grain has been removed. Power washers are not recommended because they create moisture and corrosion problems. Never store old and new grain in the same bin.

SOURCE: University of Nebraska Crop Watch.