Pic: Adam Armstrong.
Pic: Adam Armstrong.

Concern for Western Downs sorghum crops

AS LATE Sorghum growers debate when to harvest high moisture crops, grain storage specialists have said if possible, get organised and get it off.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) senior development agronomist, Philip Burrill, said late planted sorghum crops in the region were presenting harvest concerns because their moisture content was well above the safe storage level of 13.5 per cent.

Mr Burrill said to avoid quality downgrades it was critical growers had clear plans in place to implement aeration or grain drying strategies appropriate for moisture levels and with consideration for their equipment.

"There are growers who would like to harvest sorghum now, but it is sitting in the paddock at 15-20 per cent moisture content," he said.

"If they harvest sorghum with a grain temperature of 15-20˚C and moisture content above 16 per cent and put it in a silo without aeration cooling fans running, it will rapidly 'self-heat' and develop moulds.

"But the simple fact is the moisture content in the paddock is unlikely to decrease below 15 per cent moisture content quickly in the current conditions, so I would recommend getting the crop off."

Mr Burrill, who works on the Grains Research and Development Corporation's (GRDC) grain storage project, said he had received numerous calls from growers with high moisture concerns in recent weeks and his advice had been consistent.

"The starting point for these growers is to accurately measure moisture content in the paddock, get organised in terms of what equipment they have access to, and get the crop off," he said.

In most circumstances, Mr Burrill explained grain could be safely held for a few weeks at 14-16 per cent moisture content with small aeration cooling fans running continuously, delivering airflows of at least 2-4 litres per second per tonne.


Five tips for storing high moisture content sorghum:

•Run aeration fans continuously (24/7) after the first truck load goes into the silo. If possible, use silos with at least two aeration fans to assist with good air distribution through wet grain and trash. Clean the impeller on older aeration fans, as accumulated dust can significantly reduce airflow outputs. Ensure silo roof vents/top silo lid is open for good ventilation.

•High moisture sorghum (14-16 per cent) can be held safely while the small aerations are left running so grain does not get hot. Only turn small fans off briefly when outside air relative humidity remains above 85 per cent for more than 3-4 hours. With fog or mist, fans should be off.

•Have a grain temperature probe (Graintec Scientific) to check high moisture content sorghum temperature two to three times a day. Try to keep grain below 35˚C. Augering the grain out of a silo into a truck - 'turning the grain' - will help with wet/warm grain in storage.

•Use a good quality grain moisture meter. Have it serviced and checked every few years.

•Always aim to dry or blend sorghum down to less than 13.5 per cent moisture content within 3-5 weeks.

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