Canola School: Bin Sensors are the Best Way to Monitor Stored Crop, but They’re not Perfect

Millions of dollars are invested in managing a crop before it’s in the bin, and that management doesn’t stop just because it’s in storage.

Sensors that monitor temperature and moisture levels inside a bin are important tools for maintaining the value of a stored crop, notes Joy Agnew of the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute at Humboldt, Sask.

“These sensors are really the best way and the only way to know what’s going on inside the bin in terms of temperature and moisture content changes,” she explains in this episode of the Canola School. “But these sensors aren’t perfect because of the thermal insulation capacity of grain, especially canola.”

Speaking at the CanoLab workshop in Brandon earlier this month, she explained how each sensor only monitors about a bushel to a bushel-and-a-half of canola.

“When you crunch the numbers, it’s less than one percent of the bin that you’re actually monitoring,” she says in the video below. “That’s why I urge producers to keep an eye on the temperature trend, rather than on the absolute value.”

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While having more sensors is generally better, the cost of installing the equipment is often prohibitive.

“Think of it as insurance on your bin, rather than a capital cost,” suggests Agnew.

There is research underway in Winnipeg looking at 3-D mapping of temperatures inside a bin using external microwave technology, but she says this is likely many years away from being usable on farms.

Make sure to watch until the end, as Agnew demonstrates just how close a hot pocket of canola has to be before a sensor will signal that the temperature is too high.

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