AGI Grain Bins

(Photo: Ag Growth International)

Protecting grain quality and your bottom line

March 28, 2024 | Kriss Nelson

Understanding what is happening inside your grain bin is crucial to your profitability.

Improving grain management was the premise behind a webinar held last week sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and Ag Growth International (AGI).

From grain monitoring systems to knowing if your grain is too dry, David Ahern, founder and owner of Turkey River Ag Sales, LLC, a distributor for AGI, shared his grain management tips.

How to choose a grain monitoring system

Before calling a company’s sales representative, understand your specific goals and challenges as it related to grain monitoring.

“As a customer, it is your responsibility to show up to the plate knowing what you have been challenged with,” says Ahern. “Is it spoiled grain, hydrating soybeans, the market?”

  • Ask the sales representative for real-life examples and ensure they are reputable.
  • Plan ahead and allow time for replacement or new construction.

“Harvest comes fast; you need to know that if you need a project done, it may take some time,” says Ahern.

  • Make sure that what you purchase is a value of return on investment.
  • Be sure to have your whole team involved in choosing a grain monitoring system.

 Understanding your CFM

Ahern says it is imperative to know your cubic feet per minute per bushel (CFM).

“A lot is going on around the farm. How do you know the CFM of every bin? Knowing how much airflow you have per bushel is the first foundational principle around grain management,” says Ahern.

A system should have one to two CFM per bushel for drying. For example, Ahern says a 10,000-bushel bin will need a 10 to 15-horsepower fan to dry wet corn at 20% moisture, noting grain depth also plays a role.

Truths about grain marketing systems

  • Sensors do not read a radius.

“Sensors only read temperature and moisture in that spot where the sensor is and do not provide a clear reading to what is happening throughout the bin,” says Ahern.  

  • Automation does not put turbo on fans.

“Automation does not change the size or output of your fans,” says Ahern. “A fan can only do so much. Knowing what you have would be best if you always did a full storage evaluation. And be intentional about what you are building. Fans should do a purpose.”

  • Grain cables are the most accurate and robust way to obtain data from inside the bin.

“In my opinion, headspace sensors technology is just not a feasible product yet; not enough alone to manage grain,” says Ahern.

  •  Weekly broad grain management email updates are not the way to manage grain effectively. Real-time information is best when it comes to grain conditioning and management.

“You need data for your specific weather,” says Ahern. “There is not enough information to manage grain based on weather alone. Management also depends on the commodity and the condition you are trying to achieve.”

  •  Temperature tells you when you have a problem; moisture tells you before you have a problem.

To run fans or not to run fans?

“We should be intentional about using fans,” says Ahern. “Running fans just to get fresh air into the bin is not a good reason to run them.”

However, running fans could be a ‘better safe than sorry’ option.

“If you do not have a grain management system, and you do not know what is going on, run the fans more often than not,” Ahern advises.

The dryer the grain, however, is not always better, so drying should be done cautiously.

In a scenario Ahern shared, with a price of $6 a bushel of corn at the elevator, docking for moisture at 16% is $5.73 a bushel; 15% is $5.72 a bushel, and when dried to 14% price was taken down to $5.63 a bushel.

“There is a cost to over-drying—14% corn does not pay as much as 16% corn,” says Ahern. “The only issue is potential spoilage if the grain is stored at a higher moisture.”

 Fans serve the purpose of:
  • Cooling
  • Rewarming
  • Removing of moisture

A rule of thumb for removing moisture from grain to help keep it in good condition is storing it at less than 65% relative humidity. Ahern says the moisture content at harvest in most grains is typically above 90% relative humidity.

  •  Adding of moisture

    Warm, dry weather at harvest can result in soybeans being too dry, causing them to not only be brittle but lose weight and a loss of value for being too dry.

    One option is to add moisture back to the soybeans. Often, this can be done by running fans on days of higher relative humidity outside.

    One example is in a 50,000-bushel bin; changing the moisture by just 3% from 10% to the desired market percentage of 13% adds 4% additional weight. These soybeans marketed at $16 per bushel soybean price could have an impact of $32,000 more in profit compared to those soybeans in a neighboring bin that went to market in dry condition. 

    For questions regarding grain management, contact Dave Ahern at or call 563-203-0601 or AGI Territory Manager, Nathan Carr at or 563-593-9446.