What to do with Flooded Grain

A flooded road in Nebraska ( U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via MGN )

As water rushes through farm country, grain bin structures are being compromised and the grain within the bin needs to be destroyed. Flood waters can bring dangerous contaminants that infect grain, not to mention the mold that’ll likely occur from the excess moisture.

For farmers in the floodplain, with time to move grain, do so and do so quickly.

“Try to move the grain before the flood reaches the bin but stop using underfloor conveyors and legs once the water starts entering the pits,” said Charles Hurburgh, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University in a recent article.

Floodwaters not only contaminate the grain, it causes swelling. Soybeans are the worst grain for swelling, which can lead to elongated holes and sheared bolts in the bins. Look for a few signs of potential damage.

“Stretched caulking seals, doors misaligned or similar structural problems,” Hurburgh said. “Farm bins typically have light-grade steel and fasteners than commercial bins. Be aware of signs of failure when working around bins containing wetted grain.”


Motors, wiring and controls could be ruined and it’s important not to turn on those components and make sure the power is off. Hurburgh offers a checklist for your bins.

  • Cut all power and professionally verify that all structures are not energized.
  • Determine where the water line was, and therefore the extent of adulterated grain.
  • Consult your insurance carrier before moving any grain.
  • Remove good grain from the top, have it graded by an official grader, and tested for mycotoxins.
  • Consult your local DNR Field Office for instructions on disposal of adulterated grain.
  • Clean and disinfect storage structures. Replace electrical components.
  • Feed the good grain in consultation with a veterinarian who may ask for additional tests.

When it comes to the actual grain in the bin, some might be able to be saved.

“Corn will stay at about 30% moisture after the water drains off and soybeans about 25% moisture,” he said. “When stored grain is flooded, the moisture won’t travel more than a foot above the water line.”

Because moisture doesn’t travel through the entire bin you might be able to salvage grain off the top before destroying exposed grain. Take caution not to turn on fans or anything that could circulate disease, fungi or other contaminants to non-wetted grain.

“Use precaution and wear protective equipment when working with mold grain,” Hurburgh added. “Use professional salvage operators that will take correct safety precautions for bin entry.”


More on flooding:

Catastrophic flooding damages roads, rail and access to export market

Flood damage: Here’s what you need to know

Flooding reaches record levels in 17 locations in Nebraska

Markets overlook flooding’s estimated near-$1 billion in losses

Pence heads to flooded Midwest amid concerns about levees

Nebraska disaster relief funds announced