Measuring the moisture level is critical 

When storing barley, measuring the moisture levels is critical for the well-being of your crop and the safety of your operation. Your bins should be clean and dry. Barley is considered dry at different levels depending on end use. For feed, it is around 14.8 per cent moisture, while for malt, it is around 13.5 per cent. Damp barley with a moisture content greater than 17.1 per cent can rot quickly and produce heat in the bin.

When storing your dry barley, the temperature within the bin should be 20°C or less to prevent spoilage. In order to dry down your harvested grain to achieve these levels, you can store the barley in an aerated bin, or in grain bags to create the anaerobic (airless) conditions that combat spoilage. If environmental factors require storing of high moisture barley, there are several important steps that must take place to ensure that it is properly done.

High moisture barley must be stored immediately following harvest where either oxygen is excluded, or the grain is treated with an organic acid, to prevent rotting. Do not use spoiled grain as feed. It contains toxins that endanger people and animals.

Storage specifications

When storing your barley, you should consider using a well-constructed granary. A well-constructed granary is:

  • weatherproof
  • well-ventilated
  • built with a single-wall construction
  • located on a well-drained site to avoid flooding

Barley should be stored in several small granaries as opposed to one large one to allow for quicker and more even cooling of the crop. If your barley is being stored in a larger bin, check it frequently and employ aeration sensors to monitor the temperature of the grain and its uniformity. Steel granaries are usually easier to maintain, more rodent-proof, and less susceptible to insect infestation than wood granaries. Barley must not be stored in dirty granaries or granaries that contain older grain. To avoid this, thoroughly clean the walls and floors to remove old grain and dirt.

Your storage facilities should also be free of treated seed to avoid the possibility of cross-contaminations. While temporary storage systems, including grain bags, are increasing in popularity, consider the positive and negative aspects of this method. It may be more economical if storing a high volume, however there is an increased susceptibility of grain bags to damage from wildlife or spoilage. If stored in a temporary fashion, careful regular inspection should take place to ensure there are no tears or holes.

Overwintering is not suitable for malting

If your barley crop is overwintering, it will not be suitable for malting. Measure the nitrate and mycotoxin levels once harvested, as they could render the barley spoiled and unsafe for consumption.

Avoid insect infestation
Stored barley should be inspected for insect infestations every two to three weeks. If previously stored grain was infested with insects, spray walls and floors of the now-empty granary with an approved insecticide about five days before storing new grain.
Use temperature sensors
Temperature sensors in your bins prevent insect infestation. If your barley grain is warm, you should inspect it even more frequently. Harvesting hot grain (above 20°C) will attract insects, even if it tests dry.
Aerate or cool after harvest
Aerating or cooling down your barley down shortly after harvest (below 8°C) will decrease the chance of insect infestation to virtually none. Once winter arrives, infestations can be mitigated by rapidly cooling the grain. This can be done by moving it with augers to expose it to colder temperatures.
Fumigation may be necessary
If an insect infestation occurs, fumigation may be necessary. However, fumigation only works when the grain temperature is above 7°C, the minimum to activate the fumigant.
Do not fumigate unless you have consulted with an expert. Access to a fumigant is restricted and requires a valid farmer pesticide certificate with applicable endorsement for pests of stored grain.
Delivery of your harvested grain

Grain elevators have a low tolerance for treated seed in grain deliveries. In order to avoid this occurring: 

  • clean all equipment, bines, and vehicles after seed and before harvest
  • inspect all equipment for treated seed 
    • before harvest
    • before transferring grain between bins
    • before transferring grain to a truck or railcar for delivery