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Underground Grain Storage
An Australian grain farmer who needed long-term storage but couldn't justify construction of new structures went underground to come up with reliable storage at 1/5th the cost.
Wally Thorn, who farms near Glen Alice in New South Wales, dug a 79 ft. long pit that's 14 ft. wide to store about 5,500 bu. of small grain. He figures he can store grain indefinitely in the underground bin at an initial cost far below the cost of above ground permanent structures.
"It cost about $600 to dig the pit and get to the point where it's ready to hold grain. To cover it over will cost about another $200," says Thorn. "It's a cheap form of long term storage. I don't anticipate any insect damage or moisture problems."
In-ground storage of grain is not a new idea in Australia. Many farmers recall underground storage pits built years ago during severe droughts that were opened after 10 years or more with no sign of damage.
Alan Andrews, researcher at the Agricultural Engineering Center at Glenfield has researched the underground storage idea.
"It's certainly quite a lot cheaper than traditional methods of storing grain and, if done well, can make the grain very secure. It's fairly important to place the pit correctly. It must be on a well-drained site where water is not going to lie around," Andrews cautions.
He recommends that farmers only store small grain with a moisture content of 13% or less. He says completely wrapping the grain in plastic is probably unnecessary and he recommends just a sheet extending over the top and down the side of the pit part way. He says the layer of soil over the top of the plastic as much as 20 in. is what keeps out most pests. Pits are emptied from one end, which is left open, by tractor loaders and augers.

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1986 - Volume #10, Issue #5