The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is evaluating the effectiveness of a promising new technology for temporarily storing corn in the field to help farmers during harvest.

Dennis Gardisser, Arkansas Extension engineer, said the use of the new technology was spurred on by the tremendous increase in corn acreage in Arkansas.

The new technology involves storing corn grain in heavy-duty plastic bags about 9 feet in diameter and 200 feet long. Two pieces of equipment are needed to put the corn into the bags and later remove it when needed for market. The bags are about $600 each and the equipment is about $44,000.

“Each bag will hold 10,000 bushels,” Gardisser said. He said a dealer in southeast Arkansas reported that he had sold about 40 units this year.

The equipment, developed in South America, is being promoted for use in Arkansas because of the bottleneck that occurs during the harvest window. It offers a fast, temporary storage solution for several months and can increase the productivity of combines and other harvest machinery.

“Two dealers are promoting the bags in the Delta for corn and milo storage. I don’t foresee a lot of people putting rice in them until we understand the mechanics a lot better and how storage affects quality.”

Gardisser said the Extension Service is not only evaluating the usefulness of the bagging system but also developing guidelines for its use. “We have established protocols on storage grain in bins, but this is new technology in Arkansas, and we don’t have any data on it.”

There remain several questions. “We want to know what moisture levels are acceptable for storage and what happens to the grain at different levels. Is the grain quality as good as other storage methods? Did we lose quality from heat and moisture during storage?”

The system appears to offer real advantages. “One is that the bag is expandable to hold quite a bit of grain, and if you need more storage, you can buy another bag. There’s no danger from infestation after the bags are sealed. A bag can be placed close to the harvest site, which saves the farmer time.”

When the grain is needed for market, the farmer can cut the single-use bags open and remove the grain. Gardisser said a hay producer inquired about using the old bags for tarps to cover his hay.

“We’ve seen more than one farmer helping each other cut crops and sharing the equipment. Farmers can typically get a premium if they can hold their corn until December, and this may help offset the costs of the bags and equipment.”

One producer in northeast Arkansas told Gardisser he planned to store about 200,000 bushels of corn grain in the bags this season.

Gardisser said UA is making a major commitment in personnel and resources to investigate the bagging system, and dealers are also providing some funding.

e-mail: ljames@uaex.edu