Skip to main content

Field Notes session talked grain storage and marketing

Angie Peltier, UMN Extension educator, Ed Usset, UMN Extension grain marketing specialist and Ken Hellevang, NDSU Extension agricultural engineer

Photo: Angie Peltier
The following information was provided during a 2023 Strategic Farming: Field Notes session. Use your preferred podcasting platform or listen online to a podcast of this Field Notes session.

Preparing grain bins before harvest

Making sure that your grain bin is ready to accept grain is a positive step toward protecting your 2023 season-long investment. Best practices for making sure that your grain bins are ready include:

Other grain storage considerations

Cooling grain as soon as it is harvested is of the utmost importance. Warm grain allows fungi or insects that parasitize grain to continue feeding. Running the aeration system when we have cool nights can begin to cool the grain down. Covering up fan inlets when temperatures swing warmer can help to keep cooled grain from heating back up.

If the condition of the 2023 crop at harvest is similar to other recent years, we may need to make plans for conditioning grain that is too dry. Too dry grain is more susceptible to breakage or splitting and ends up making the farmer less money at the grain elevator.

Learn more about best practices for conditioning soybeans that are too dry.

Refamiliarize yourself with grain bin safety

Refamiliarize yourself with the many risks to life and limb that are associated with working with stored grain. Every year across the Midwest, the farm press publicizes at least one tragic story about one or more members of a farm family dying after becoming entrapped in grain.
  • Lock-out tag out. Lock-out, tag-out is a safety procedure that people can practice on the farm to alert anyone else working on the farm that a person may be inside the grain bin or working on equipment. This can help keep someone from getting trapped in the grain or having machinery start up while working on it.
    Refamiliarize yourself with lock-out, tag-out procedures to ensure safety.
  • Grain entrapment. Flowing grain can act as quick sand, pulling a farm worker further down into the grain, quickly enveloping a person’s body. Entrapment can lead to suffocation and death and can happen anytime a person enters a grain bin when there is grain inside.
    Refamiliarize yourself with how best to avoid entrapment.

What is new in the grain bin world?


The only way to know how warm our grain is when in the bin is to measure it. All bins should have some temperature monitoring equipment. This is an important investment to make as it would be a shame to have worked for an entire growing season to grow a crop only to have it perish.


More recently, some companies have begun marketing tools to measure moisture content in grain bins. Briefly, temperature and relative humidity are measured and used to calculate moisture content. Without careful calibration, measurements are unlikely to be correct. Any measurement needs to be accurate in order to be of use.

CO2 level

When fungi and insect pests undergo respiration, CO2 is produced. If one can measure an increase in CO2 concentration, this might indicate that there is a problem with the stored grain. While these sorts of sensors have shown promise in research settings, we are not yet sure how well they work on-farm inside full sized grain bins.

Insect activity

Some manufacturers make sensors that can detect insects and can alert a farmer to an insect problem. This equipment is not common in our northern climate.

Click here for more information about grain drying and storage.

Grain marketing

There are many dangers of holding onto last years’ grain in summer, including pests and pathogens detailed above. An additional danger is losing out on better grain prices as new crop futures tend to trade lower as we progress from spring to fall and basis tends to go from spring highs to fall lows.

Current grain prices


For much of the crop year corn was selling at $6 per bushel, but in the last few months prices slid closer toward $5. As of the morning of August 23, new crop futures were $4.83, but cash prices are between $4.40 and $4.50 per bushel, the lowest prices since December 2020. The reason for the recent drop in corn price is the surprise June 30 USDA acreage report that raised total corn acres and lowered soybean acres.

The USDA’s latest crop condition report has rated less than 50% of the 2023 Minnesota corn and soybean crop ‘good’ to ‘excellent’. We are forecast to have average yields both in Minnesota and the rest of the country. A below-trend corn crop when combined with poor corn demand has led to the lowest prices that we have seen in nearly 3 years.


The November new crop bids for soybean are $13.40 per bushel, or less than $13 per bushel after basis. These prices are lower than they have been in the last 2 years.

Spring wheat

Russia’s war with Ukraine was theorized to have had a larger impact on spring wheat prices than it has given the continued world-wide demand and diminished supply in and ability to export wheat from Ukraine. However, USDA is forecasting US wheat exports to be at the lowest level since 1971. This is because the large 2022 and 2023 Russian wheat crops have been able to fill the gap caused by Ukraine’s production and export challenges.

Spring wheat is trading at $7.70 per bushel with cash prices in the Red River Valley (RRV) at a 2-year low of ~$7.30.

The US corn and soybean belt has been moving North and West

Over the past 30 years, soybean and corn production has moved North and West into northwest Minnesota and North Dakota. Some grain elevators have seen this shift and now fewer are accepting spring wheat. For those outside of the RRV that want to add spring wheat to their cropping system, be sure and call around to local elevators before planting to make sure that there is a place nearby to sell it!

What to look out for going forward

According to Usset, ”Predictions and $5 will get you a cup of coffee anywhere in the Twin Cities.” However, one positive thing to look out for in the next 2-4 years is the expansion of soybean crushing capacity in the US. At this time, there have been 16 different announcements regarding increasing crushing capacity. If these projects all come to pass, this could create market disruption, as demand for soybeans, and acres devoted to soybeans will increase and demand for other commodities competing for the same acres will decrease.

Thanks to the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council for their support of this program.

Print Friendly and PDF