Nov. 8, 2015 - Cases of grain entrapment deaths have been growing in recent years. New equipment in Prince Albert, Sask. will help firefighters aid anyone who becomes trapped under flowing piles of grain, whether in bins, silos or the back of trucks.
Three grain storage bins used for natural air drying study at the IHARF research farm at Indian Head, Sask. A diesel generator, used to power the fans, is in the foreground. Photo by Ron Palmer, IHARF.
An option for natural air drying other than continuous fan operation is being put forward by Ron Palmer, an electrical systems engineer with the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation (IHARF), a 1200-acre, non-profit producer-directed applied research organization in Saskatchewan.
It isn’t fancy, but it is simple and cheap, as Palmer describes it. And if you’re skeptical, it won’t be difficult to test.
The IHARF study of natural air drying began in 2007, and is being funded through the 2017 growing season by the Western Grains Research Foundation. Other sponsors include Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Great West Controls, and Advancing Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan.
According to Palmer, the purpose of the study is to develop a fan control strategy for natural, unheated air that results in safe storage of grain, requires less fan running time and dries grain quickly for early sales. “Safety” of the storage reflects the number of days grain can stay in storage before the germination rate (quality) falls to 95 per cent of whatever rate it had when it went into storage. The faster it reaches a stable cool and dry condition, the better the quality will be and the longer it can be stored safely.
To the end of 2014, Palmer worked with spring wheat, barley and field peas in typical farm-size bins with 33 trial runs. Two 2250-bushel bins and four 3500-bushel bins were paired for the trials – each filled at the same time with the same lot of grain. The typical continuous operation strategy was compared to experimental options, with 3-hp and 5-hp fans.
All bin runs from 2007 to 2013 with continuous fan operation were examined to determine the average rate of drying on an hourly basis. It was observed that there was consistently a significant amount of drying occurring in the first 24 hours of all continuous runs. “Thus, we suggest that it is important to have the fan on immediately as the grain comes in from the field,” Palmer says.
After the first 24-hours, his analysis of the drying curves became very interesting. “There was a daily cycle of drying and wetting appearing to repeat every 24 hours… in general, drying occurred at night and occasionally during cool days,” he notes.
Palmer’s research showed a direct relationship between grain temperature and air temperature. Drying was occurring whenever the grain temperature was decreasing. Drying was not occurring when the grain temperature was rising. In fact, grain in storage was being re-wetted by warmer outside air – moisture from the warm air was condensing on the cooler grain, and was being gradually absorbed into the grain.
“There are some producers who are intuitively following a control practice of only running the fans on hot days,” Palmer notes. “This does result in drying the grain, but it also keeps the grain hot which in turn reduces the number of safe days of storage, which could lead to mould development and spoilage.
“The common practice of running the fans continuously ‘works,’ but it needlessly cycles the grain through hot wet conditions which increases grain moisture and encourages spoilage,” he adds. “There are many days that the fan is running and is actually damaging the grain, by warming it up and adding moisture to the grain.”
The better option, he continues, is “cool fan operation.” Ideally, operate fans only at night when the air is cooler than the grain – resulting in much less fan time and cooler, safer grain.
Palmer found out that the first day was extremely critical. After that, continuous fan operation was a waste of fan operation and energy, and a waste of money.
“We would remove one per cent of the grain moisture content within that first 24 hours. After that, we fell into the cycle of drying at night and wetting in daytime. Leaving the air on continuously took out more water than we put in, eventually, but we could run the thing for a whole week without getting anywhere. It was just cycling back and forth, water in, water out. We were spinning our wheels, doing nothing.”
Thus, continuous natural air drying (airflow 1-2 cfm/bu) of the grain resulted in bins of warmer grain with higher moisture.
On the basis of this new information, Palmer suggests, the better focus for grain in storage is to “drive the temperature down” as far as you can.
His two-stage advice for best control of natural air drying is: 1. Turn on the fan immediately when filling a bin with warm grain; and 2. Leave fan on until 9 a.m. next day.
After that, get the grain as cold as possible by leaving the fan on when the outside temperature is less than grain temperature.
Palmer notes that one can adjust the drying time and the fan time by including an offset of one or two degrees to alter the threshold temperature. An offset of only one degree may lower the duty cycle of the fan by about five per cent, he says. The grain will be cooler and safer, but the drying time will increase. Work is being done to determine how the offset affects this balance. A sophisticated controller could include this offset.
|Source: Ron Palmer, IHARF.|
As Palmer studied research data from instruments on the IHARF bins over several years, he realized that maintaining the grain quality was as important as getting it dry economically.
“Really, we want the grain safe. We don’t want any spoilage. Grain starts to spoil the minute it comes off your combine,” he says. “The question is, how can I store that grain with the least amount of spoilage to keep the quality as high as possible?”
That led him to studies from the 1980s that led to a spoilage formula. The Fraser and Muir formula determines the safe storage time for cereal grains based on grain moisture and storage temperature. Safe storage life is 38 days at 30 degrees and 14.5 per cent moisture; at the same moisture and 20 degrees, it has 128 safe days; at zero or colder, the safe days are almost unlimited.
“Two things go into secure, safe storage. We’ve been ignoring one of them. The one is dry. The other is cool or cold,” Palmer says. “How your grain is stored determines the number of safe days. If you want to keep your grain safe, keep it dry and cool.”
Going back to his data from hundreds of cycles as grain in storage warmed and cooled, Palmer saw that for every 10 to 15 degrees that the grain is cooled, about one per cent moisture was removed - simply because cold air holds less moisture than warm air.
“Cooling your grain is drying your grain. The two are one. You can actually build a controller now that would only be drying your grain if the outside temperature was less than your grain temperature. If it’s warmer outside, turn off the fan. If it’s less (than the grain temperature), turn on the fan. I’ve built the controllers and they work,” he says.
A company in Regina has started developing a controller for this purpose, to be controlled from a smartphone. It will monitor the temperature of grain in storage and outside air. At a threshold the farmer can set, it will activate or turn off the fans.
“We’re going to try that product this fall,” Palmer says. “We’re going to play with that offset, to see how it influences the on/off time.”
More to do
There’s more to do, Palmer admits. For instance, there’s discussion about what happens inside the bulk of grain in a bin. To this point, he’s treated it as a “black box” where those dynamics are ignored. He’s been measuring amounts of moisture going into the bin and amounts coming out.
“We’re actually loading these bins this year with sensors for moisture and relative humidity to find out what is really going on, and how the drying is taking place, inside the bin. With the temperature and relative humidity I will be able to calculate the moisture content of the grain, at points throughout the bin. That will be interesting to see with real data, not assumptions. Predictions and assumptions could be wrong if you miss something.”
There’s an “art” to drying grain, Palmer adds. “We’re looking at the possibility of using smaller fans, producing less than one cfm/bushel. They may take a longer time to dry but you’ll get more consistent, more uniform drying from top to bottom – maybe,” he says.
In the remaining project years, he also may try reversing fans, using bins larger than 10,000 bushels, results with natural air drying for oilseeds and tests to clarify the “drying front” concept as moisture changes while grain is in storage.
Finally, good science will produce consistent results. He’s hopeful that other work will confirm his findings or reveal issues that he has missed.
Sept. 1, 2015, Winnipeg, MB - As harvest has begun for Canadian grain producers, the Canadian Grain Commission reminds producers that insects could be present in any grain stored over the summer, or in areas around storage bins. These insects could move easily between bins and infest your new harvest.
To protect the quality of grain currently in storage, the Canadian Grain Commission recommends you:
- Sample the grain from the core at a depth of 30 to 50 cm (12 to 18 inches) from the surface. Insects are likely to be found in pockets of warm or moist grain. Sieve the samples or examine small portions carefully. Typically, stored product insects are very small beetles (less than 3 mm or 1/8 inch) that may not be moving. A magnifying glass can be helpful.
- For best results, your grain's temperature should be less than 15°C. As well, you should keep your grain at the appropriate moisture content, depending on its type (for example, wheat should be at or lower than14.5% moisture content).
- Summer surveys have shown that the lesser grain borer (Rhyzopertha dominica) has been found across Canada, particularly in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The lesser grain borer is one of Canada's most damaging pests found in stored grain. The Canadian Grain Commission has insect identification keys on our website that can help you. If you cannot identify an insect using these keys, call our Infestation Control and Sanitation Officer.
- Insects in your grain could be grain feeders, fungal feeders, or predators of these insects. By accurately identifying insects, you can determine the appropriate control method.
- The Canadian Grain Commission's website has advice on controlling grain feeding insects. You can also contact our Infestation Control and Sanitation Officer for further assistance.
- Make sure storage areas are clean and free from grain residues that can harbour or attract insects.
- If required, treat your empty storage bins with a registered contact insecticide such as malathion, pyrethrin or a diatomaceous earth-based product. Make sure you treat floor-wall joints, aeration plenums or floors and access points thoroughly. Note: Do not use malathion in bins intended for canola storage.
Controlling insect pest infestations
Insect identification keys
Lesser grain borer
Manage stored grain: Maintain quality and manage insect infestations
Moisture determination for Canadian grains
Tough and damp ranges for Canadian grains
July 21, 2015 - The new SW750 air cart from Horsch LLC offers unmatched efficiency and versatility with its three-bin design and 750-bushel capacity.
The SW750 comes standard with dual 710/70R38 tires, but can also be equipped with 36-inch tracks for higher flotation, decreased compaction and a lower horsepower requirement when compared with competing air carts. Customers also have the choice of a standard 10-inch auger or an optional 16-inch conveyor for faster, gentler loading of commodities.
Other options on the SW750 include a 60-bushel small grain/inoculant tank, as well as scales with live weight readout for the three individual tanks. The air cart is compatible with ISOBUS or Raven Electronics. It does not require any additional monitors or cabling in the tractor, helping to simplify setup and operation.
Jan. 20, 2015 - The new Operation Harvest Sweep system from Leading Edge Industries replaces the existing deck plates and gathering chains in corn headers with components engineered to combat shatter loss.
In a news release, the company states that according to field tests, Operation Harvest Sweep has been shown to reduce shatter loss by 80 to 85 per cent, helping farmers make more money at harvest, while achieving full return on investment in as quickly as one year.
Operation Harvest Sweep kits are available for most popular makes and models of corn headers. Each kit contains deck plates, gathering chains, impact pads and hardware for one row unit. Unlike OEM deck plates, the ones included in Operation Harvest Sweep are lipped to retain shattered kernels, rather than letting them fall to the ground. Additionally, the new gathering chains are equipped with sweeps to bring the shattered kernels from the deck plates to the auger. The gathering chains also come with impact pads for gentler corn handling and reduced shattering.
In addition to more bushels harvested, end users may also experience less volunteer corn appearing in their corn/soybean rotations, since fewer kernels fall to the ground with Operation Harvest Sweep. As a result of less volunteer corn, fewer nutrients and water are stolen from soybeans.
To learn more about the product, check header compatibility, purchase kits, or view a side-by-side comparison of Operation Harvest Sweep versus stock header components, visit www.harvestsweep.com.
An emerging technology called radio-frequency (RF) heating has the potential to be a rapid, non-toxic, efficient and safe method to disinfest various food and agricultural products. The technology is starting to have some commercial applications for treating products like nuts and spices. Now, Saskatchewan researchers are developing RF heating to control insects in stored grains on the Prairies.
Dr. Oon-Doo Baik, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, is leading this research. “Radio-frequency is a kind of electromagnetic wave, like a microwave. RF heating works similarly to microwave heating, but RF heating has a greater penetration depth,” he explains.
“Radio-frequency heating is very effective, energy-efficient and fast heating, and provides uniform heating. It can also be used for selective heating or targeted heating, which allows killing of insects in grain without damaging the grain quality.” Insects have very different electrical properties than grains, so at certain RF frequencies the insects heat up much faster than the grain. As a result, the insects can be killed while the grain remains at a moderate temperature.
“There are clear advantages to using RF technology compared to other conventional methods to control insect pests in grain,” says Baik. “Conventional methods include using chemicals or non-chemical methods such as [conventional] heating, which is not efficient and takes a large amount of energy. Chemicals can be toxic, and they are specific to certain insect species and certain stages in the insect’s life cycle.
“In contrast, radio-frequency heating is non-toxic, it efficiently kills all stages of the insect’s life cycle – the egg, larva, pupa and adult – and it works for all different kinds of insect pests. It’s cheaper in the long run and it’s safe.”
Baik and his research team, Dr. Bijay Shrestha and Daeung Yu, recently completed a study to use RF heating to control rusty grain beetles in bulk spring wheat samples at a lab scale. Rusty grain beetle is one of the most common stored-grain insects. The researchers tested the technology with wheat at three moisture contents (12, 15 and 18 per cent) and at temperatures between 15 and 75 C. They examined the effects of RF heating on the wheat and the insect.
“By heating the bulk wheat sample to about 60 C for three minutes with our 1.5 kW lab-scale RF unit, we were able to get 100 per cent mortality of the rusty grain beetle [at all life stages],” says Baik. “Also, we observed no significant quality degradation in terms of wheat germination and wheat flour properties.”
Following up on these promising results, Baik is now leading a new project to develop a prototype RF heating system as the next step towards the practical use of RF technology in Prairie agriculture. Funding for this project is from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s Agriculture Development Fund and the Western Grains Research Foundation.
Developing a prototype
Baik and his research team will be developing the prototype RF technology for use with a variety of grain storage and handling systems commonly found on the Prairies. “This technology is very flexible and can be used for all different types of applications – grain elevators, grain storage bins, any type of grain storage system – because the main body of the RF heating system can be separate from the applicator,” he explains.
Coaxial cables can be used to connect the RF generator to the RF applicator, with the generator up to about 30 feet away. “The applicator is basically composed of two electrodes. We can install the two electrodes in an inlet or outlet of a grain storage system, so the grain can be treated with RF heating as it flows past the applicator.”
The electrodes can range in size from about 20 cm to 1 m long and can have various shapes like a plate or a tube, depending on the characteristics of the specific grain handling system and the needs of the people who want to disinfest the grain.
In an exciting advance, the researchers will be using a sophisticated 3D computer simulation system to design and make the applicators. “Using a computer simulation, we will test the RF system with different shapes of applicators, different configurations and sizes of electrodes, and different grain handling systems, like augers, conveyor belts and bin-to-bin and bin-to-chute transportation systems. The simulation calculates the electromagnetic field generation and then the volumetric heat generation, heat transfer, mass transfer, momentum transfer (fluid flow), et cetera,” says Baik.
“So multiple physical effects can be calculated and simulated, and then that can be used for in-house fabrication and implementation of the technology. So this is a powerful tool for theoretical understanding and for scientifically solid virtual protoyping. Based on this, we will fabricate applicators and then test them with a real system as well.”
The researchers will be testing the prototype technology on rusty grain beetles in spring wheat and on red flour beetles, another common stored-grain pest, in canola. The RF treatments will be done for all life stages of the two insects, and for a range of moisture contents and temperatures for the wheat and canola.
Before and after each RF treatment, the researchers will measure germination of the wheat and canola, as well as the wheat’s flour properties and the canola’s oil properties. And they will determine the insect mortality rates.
This new project involves somewhat different RF technology (50 ohm technology) than the researchers used in their earlier project (self-oscillator technology). As well, they will be using a more accurate way to measure the selective heating rate of the insects. With this greater accuracy, Baik suspects they may be able to achieve 100 per cent insect mortality with even less energy input and shorter process time than they used in their initial study due to more rapid selective heating at higher RF power.
Towards practical use
According to Baik, there are a couple of issues that could be hurdles in the adoption of RF heating to disinfest stored grain.
“The first one could be an advantage, or disadvantage, depending on your point of view. Based on our preliminary research, we need to heat the grain moderately up to about 60 C for about three minutes or less to kill the insects, so there might be some drying of the grain when you use RF heating. However, many farmers want to dry their grain for storage, so it could be an advantage,” he notes.
“The second issue is the initial capital cost of the RF technology. At present a moderate scale RF generator costs about $20,000 to $50,000. However the capital cost per kW of power output is dropping significantly. I am expecting the fall in cost will be like the case of the microwave; initially microwave technology was expensive, but now we buy it very cheaply. Also, the capital cost will be paid back over time because [RF operating costs] are cheaper than the conventional methods.”
To assess the relative costs, the researchers calculated the operating costs for RF heating compared to chemical treatment for the example of wheat stored in a medium-sized bin with a diameter of about 27 feet, a height around 19 feet, and a capacity of about 8,750 bushels.
“The cost to treat that volume of wheat with RF heating was approximately $25, based on the provincial energy cost of 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour. To treat that same volume of wheat with a pesticide or fumigant, the chemical cost plus the operating costs, based on our preliminary research, ranged from about $250 to something like $2,500. So the chemical treatment cost is much higher than the RF heating,” says Baik. “Of course, there is the initial capital cost to purchase the RF heater, but that cost is falling. And RF heating is safer than using chemicals, it can also dry the grain, if that’s required, and it’s fast and efficient. So I think it’s promising.”
This is the month to make sure stored canola is stable heading into winter. As outside temperatures drop below zero and stay there, canola growers want to make sure canola has cooled throughout the bin.
When outside air is colder than stored canola, another moisture cycle begins within the bin. The mass on the outside edge of the bin cools first. This colder air migrates down the outside then up through the central core, picking up warmth and moisture along the way. This creates a pocket of humid and warmer air at the top of the central core where spoilage and heating can start.
Removing one third of the canola out of a full bin disrupts the moisture cycle and helps cool the mass. For big bins, moving one third of the volume could mean a number of truck loads. While unloading, remember to feel the canola as it comes out of the bin. In the absence of adequate temperature sensors within the grain mass, this is probably the only effective way to determine if core temperatures are still high in large storage structures.
Probing through doors or roof hatches will likely be unreliable for finding hot spots near the core of the bin.
Aeration in November can help cool the bin, but aeration can be tricky at cold temperatures. Check the aeration fan's capacity for the amount of CFMs (cubic feet per minute) to ensure the fan capacity is matched to the size of bin. Fans with limited capacity will not be able to move the appropriate amount of cold air throughout the dense mass. This can create a moisture front within the bin, which can create a crust layer. With restricted air movement, spoilage could begin along the moisture front. This crust can also hang up and create a challenge for unloading.
Does your storage measure up?
Cool conditions in the fall make it difficult to dry canola using aeration alone. Is it time for a heated air system, or a dryer? For more on storage considerations, we have archived videos on floors, fans, bag storage and other presentations from the Canola Council of Canada Storage Clinic in Brandon in 2012.
July 22, 2014, Winnipeg, MB - Grain auger and accessories manufacturer Westfield has released the new GULP Drive Over Hopper with an ultra-low profile, allowing for efficient and quick truck unloading for on-farm applications.
The GULP is an ultra-low profile drive over hopper that transports with a 13-inch Westfield swing auger. According to a company news release, it removes the need to re-attach or re-position multiple pieces of equipment when unloading trucks and trailers. The drive over unit hydraulically lowers and swings into position while the one-touch ramp deployment provides easy setup in minutes. Compatible with almost all trucks, this drive over hopper is only 4.5 inches high and features a large catchment area and revolutionary chevron belt to auger transition.
The GULP was officially debuted at Canada's Farm Progress Show this past June, earning the Innovations Award which recognizes achievement in innovative agriculture products and services.
May 5, 2014 - Canola to be stored on-farm through summer will be safer if warmed up before outside temperatures get hot.
"The goal is to reduce the temperature differential between stored canola and the outside air," says Angela Brackenreed, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada. "This reduces the amount of moisture movement within the bin, and can prevent the concentration of moisture that can lead to spoilage and heating."
Cold grain should be turned or aerated to raise the grain temperature to between 5C and 10C.
Joy Agnew, a grain storage researcher with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI), says now is a good time to warm up dry grain. "If you use air that is more than 10C warmer than the grain, the air will lose its ability to hold its moisture as soon as it hits the cool grain. This means it will condense on the grain and possibly freeze — which would cause major airflow issues," she says.
Agnew recommends turning the grain after it has been warmed. "If possible, entirely empty the bin and put it into another aeration bin," she says. "If this is not possible, pull out several loads and put them back on top of the same bin. The goal here is to try to mix the grain to help even out the temperature variations and help warm up the grain a bit more." She recommends that stored canola remain below 15C.
The larger the bin, the greater the risk of spoilage if canola is not warmed. "Bins larger than 5,000 bushels are more susceptible to moisture migration because there will be a greater temperature differential between the outer edge and the core of the bin," Agnew says.
Canola that went into the bin with moisture above 10 per cent, even above eight per cent, deserves extra attention this time of year. "Tough canola is at much higher risk, and it should be dried if it can't be delivered right away," Brackenreed says.
A hot air dryer will do the job quickly. Natural air drying with aeration fans can also work, but the ideal conditions for this technique are when outside air temperature is higher than 15C and humidity is lower than 65 per cent.
Agnew adds that canola dried with a hot air dryer should be cooled to 15C for storage.
Apr. 7, 2014 — One of Canada's top experts on grain handling and food storage is warning farmers and producers of a potentially serious problem.
Distinguished Professor Digvir Jayas, former Canada Research Chair in Stored-Grain Ecosystems and currently vice-president (research and international) at the University of Manitoba, says there is an urgent need to take action to prevent spoilage of the 2013 food crop.
Western Canada had a bumper harvest in 2013, with increased yields as high as 38 per cent above 2012 levels for some crops. This positive news has been tempered by the fact this has far outstripped the capacity of storage facilities on farms and elevators. Combined with the slow movement of grain out of Western Canada, this has forced producers to place grain in temporary storage in Quonset huts, in Silobags or simply piled on the ground. As the weather warms up in the spring and summer, there is a great risk of grain spoiling due to insect infestation, mould growth or rodents.
"Farmers need to take corrective action very soon," advises Jayas, who makes the following recommendations to reduce quality loss in storage:
- Grain should be moved out of Silobags, Quonset huts and off the ground as soon as possible and loaded into bins with aeration, and best before May 2014. Research results from the assessment of Silobags for storing canola at 12 per cent moisture content showed that canola maintained its grade if unloaded before the ground is thawed, although lost one grade if unloaded a month after beginning ground thawing and became feed grade if unloaded after few summer months.
- Moister grain should be dried or processed first. Natural air drying can be operated when the air temperature is higher than 15℃ and relative humidity is lower than 65 per cent. After the middle of April, weather conditions on some days can meet this requirement.
- Cold grain should be turned or aerated to raise the grain temperature to between 5 to 10°C to prevent moisture migration.
- New harvest grain should not be put on the top of the grain harvested in the previous year(s).
- New harvest grain should go into bins that are cleaned of grain residues, and approved insecticides applied so as to disinfest empty bins.
Canadian Grain Commission crop storage information.
There’s no question that on-farm grain bin storage is on the rise, and with it comes concerns about potential grain spoilage. The increase can be attributed primarily to the yield increases Ontario growers have been experiencing, says Lisa Devolder, business manager at Devolder Farms Inc., near Chatham, Ont.
Turning on the aeration fans for a day or two during the first cold week of fall can help put chills up any bin that hasn't cooled down to a safe level. However, aeration can be tricky at cold temperatures. Check the aeration fan's capacity for the amount of CFMs (cubic feet per minute) to ensure the fan capacity is matched to the size of bin. Fans with limited capacity will not be able to move the appropriate amount of cold air throughout the dense mass. This can create a moisture front within the bin, which can create a crust layer. With restricted air movement, spoilage could begin along the moisture front. This crust can also hang up and create a challenge for unloading.
Grain storage bags were a popular way to store a lot of the bumper crop this fall. Any canola in bags may be the canola you want to move first, as bags are generally considered safe for short term storage only. Moving bagged canola first also avoids the inconvenience of unloading bags in the snow (although we may be too late on that front for some) or in the soft muck of spring.
Read more about canola storage in the Canola Council of Canada's Canola Encylopedia.
The Commission is reminding licensed elevators that paragraph 16(a) of the Canada Grain Regulations requires that the operator of a licensed elevator store all grain received in an elevator building.
Before storing grain on the ground, a licensed elevator must request an exemption in writing, advising the Canadian Grain Commission of the kind of grain to be stored on the ground and the date the grain to be stored on the ground is received.
As well, elevator operators should be aware that producers may also be storing grain on the ground on the farm. Under the Canada Grain Act, a licensed grain handling facility cannot receive grain that is contaminated. As well, a licensed elevator can refuse to receive grain that is out of condition, or is likely to go out of condition.
Now, a new made-in-Canada zipper system is ensuring moisture stays out of grain stored in poly bags.
The Grain Bag Zipper system was developed by Curry Industries Ltd. in 2010. The family-owned Winnipeg-based business, with only four employees, invented Poly-Fastener zipper strips for sealing greenhouse film in 1971. Nearly 40 years later, Walter Curry and his son Mike worked together to develop a similar product for grain bags.
The Currys developed the idea for the Grain Bag Zipper system after attending Manitoba Ag Days at Brandon. Among the grain storage products, Mike Curry noted machines for loading and unloading grain in plastic bags. The company already had a steady business in the silage bag market with its Poly-Fastener system, and Curry reasoned that perhaps the grain bag industry could use a similar product.
After Ag Days, he accepted an invitation to join a Manitoba trade mission that took him to Decatur, Illinois. There, a silage bag dealer gave him a compliment and a challenge.
“He said, ‘I like your seal. It’s the best out there. But, it’s hard to put together; the parts have to match perfectly’,” recalls Curry. “When they were bagging grain, they didn’t have time to go on hands and knees to roll pieces of plastic together to make them fasten. They wanted a simpler approach.”
Curry realized the industry needed a tool to join the two Poly-Fastener sides quickly and easily. They developed the product, and in 15 years, they had sold about a million feet of Poly-Fastener to the silage bag industry. What he had not realized was that a simple tool for joining the two sides quickly and easily could boost their sales for a new grain bag market.
In early August 2010, they took their newly designed zipper and tool to a farm with grain bags at Portage la Prairie. They worked out the design kinks at Moran Farms. And by the end of August, they were ready to manufacture for fall sales. Today, several shortline equipment dealers on the Prairies are carrying Curry Industries’ Grain Bag Zipper system. A dealer network is starting to develop in the northern United States.
In the 2010 field research, Mike Curry learned some things. “One of the first problems identified by early users was trying to keep the coils straight,” says Curry. “Now, you anchor the channel with butterfly bolts, tighten up both ends, put your material over it, set up the zipper tool at one end and clamp in the insert. Once it’s clamped, it takes less than a minute to slide the zipper closed.”
The inventors came up with a sturdy, simple kit for the product. The kit is meant to be reusable for up to 10 years. “We found that when 20 feet of poly film is stretched out in a field, you have a lot of factors to keep it from moving around,” he notes.
Today, their kit has five pegs, two anchors, the new zipper tool, a hand roller, a slicer (to cut the bag as it is sealed), a push-pull device and a 20-foot universal piece of Poly-Fastener that accommodates both silage bags and heavier grain bags. The zipper tool can be used with either heavy or light poly. Pins fasten the poly bag end to the ground so it is stabilized for a few minutes. Similarly, anchors are there to tie down the poly channel, so that the coils inside can be stretched out straight and flat.
James Valley Colony, at Elie, Manitoba, was one of the first Manitoba farms to bring in a grain bag system as a harvest aid to supplement their conventional steel storage bins and sheds. Six years later, for the 2012 harvest, they put a big portion of their feed grain crop into grain bags.
“We use them mostly for barley, wheat, corn and oats,” says Joshua Wurtz, an assistant in the grain division.
James Valley Colony worked out an approach to seal the bags and protect them from spring flooding. The bags would sit on dirt pads, side by side, perhaps a foot above the field level and with a drain between each pad. If the field floods in spring and the bags still have grain, they will stay above the water line.
For years, they sealed the grain bag ends with pairs of wood 2x4 studs, about 12 feet long. They would sandwich the plastic between the studs, screw the studs together, roll them two or three times and put in more screws so there was no risk of moisture getting through. The system worked pretty well most of time. Sometimes, they would partially unload a bag, close it up, and come back later to finish.
“The problem with closing it up after it has been opened is moisture can get in past the 2x4s,” says Wurtz. “If it’s not sealed properly, you can get rain running up the side of the bag and toward the seal, and working its way through the 2x4s.”
For the 2012 harvest, James Valley Colony purchased Curry Industries’ Grain Bag Zipper system for each end of each grain bag, and a few spare zippers. Two men now are able to close a bag end in three or four minutes.
By January 2013, they had emptied a dozen bags. “There’s pretty much no moisture inside. We maybe lost one or two shovels per bag, so that’s not too bad,” notes Wurtz, who estimates a $39 zipper can be used for several years.
The zipper can be cut off with a knife then separated for use on another bag. If they need to open a small part to monitor grain quality in the fall, they can and then reclose it easily. “It’s very quick, a must-have for serious baggers,” says Wurtz. “We really like the water- and air-tight seal the zipper provides.”
The Canola Council of Canada (CCC) recommends that hot canola be put on aeration for cooling, even if it's dry. There will still be convection currents and some moisture movement within the bin, which can concentrate moisture at the bottom of the central core — creating a possible start point for heating.
Aeration will also even out the temperature and moisture throughout the bin, preventing these hot spots from occurring.
The CCC says the risk is even higher with larger bins, due to less surface area relative to the volume, meaning natural cooling takes longer. The core will hold that heat longer if not aerated, and larger bins take more loads to fill them so there is a greater chance a load or two might be over eight per cent.
When using aeration to cool canola that is very dry, fans can be shut off during the day and turned on at night when air is cooler.
Monitoring bins frequently is even more critical, especially during the first few weeks when warm seed may be respiring rapidly. Growers should ensure that temperatures throughout the bin are at least stable or hopefully falling over time.
Ensure your moisture meter is working, as they do tend to lose accuracy. Test a few samples each year on your home tester and then on the elevator's tester to see how they compare.
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National Invasive Species ForumTue Feb 28, 2017
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Central Ontario Agriculture Conference Fri Mar 03, 2017
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