By Todd Whitney
Grain bagging has been gaining momentum in west central Nebraska. Producers are now using 300-feet long polyethylene bags for temporary in-field grain storage; and these storage bags provide many advantages compared to traditional grain storage methods.
- Daren Englund, a Holdrege grain producer and earlier adopter of the in-field storage bag, says that the main reason that their farm began using bagging technology was increased harvest efficiency. Instead of needing semi-trucks during harvest, they can now harvest fairly efficiently with just two people. Daren runs their 1,100 bushel capacity grain cart; while Lee Englund, Daren’s father, operates their 12-row combine. Several commercial baggers are now available; but the Englunds use a Flex Stor® polyethylene bagger and grain bag unloader distributed by Titan Manufacturing in Holdrege.
Polyethylene bags are now used to store silage, grain and even fertilizer. Some attribute the dairy industry as the earliest bag adopters with silage storage; while others credit the Canadians as the first grain baggers with canola storage. For the Englunds, their grain bagging began in 2008 with leasing followed by investing in their own equipment for the past three years. Daren highly recommends “you tube” training videos such as those published by Koyker Manufacturing. These web trainings provided tips on how to properly use the grain bagging loading and unloading equipment.
As early adopters, the Englunds learned much by experimentation. For example, the “stop filling line” marker on some bags may not work well for all farmers. Daren says that they stop adding grain to the bag when there are about 4 folds left on the polyethylene bag. This will allow enough room to seal the ends of the bags with 2” x 4” boards (screwed together) and also provide enough space for the unloading process when augers back into the bag to fill semi-trucks from the fields.
As a rule of thumb, each 300 feet long bag holds 12,500 to 13,000 bushels of grain; so each irrigation pivot usually requires 2 ½ bags (300 feet long). Although bags can be purchased in varied lengths and/or split for partial rows; the Englunds like the 300 feet long bags; since this is the bag weight that two people can mostly easily handle. They usually calculate the overall cost for 6 month storage to be about 12 cents per bushel for the one-time use polyethylene bag investment; loading cost; and unloading of bag costs.
Tips for Using Grain Storage Bags
Storage in a poly bag is a good storage option, but it does not prevent mold growth or insect infestations.
- Grain should be dry when placed in a grain bag. Storing higher-moisture corn in a bag should be considered very short-term storage and done only at near-freezing temperatures. At moisture contents exceeding about 25%, ensiling may occur at temperatures above freezing and prevent the corn from being dried and sold in the general market.
- Select an elevated, well-drained location with the surface prepared to prevent the bags from being punctured, and run the bags north and south so solar heating is similar on both sides of the bags.
- Wildlife can puncture the bags, creating an entrance for moisture and releasing the grain smell, which attracts more wildlife. Monitor the grain temperature at several locations in the bags and repair punctured bags.