The 2011 flood left a high water mark on numerous Mid-South grain bins this spring, leaving varying degrees of cleanup and/or grain salvage. However, extensive damage to stored grain or the bins was probably more the exception than the rule, except for areas where extreme flooding took place, according to a random survey of farmers and Extension agents in the Mid-South interviewed for this story.

“We had storage under water,” said Prairie County, Arkansas Extension agent Brent Griffith. “At least 100,000 crop acres went under water in the county. About 50,000 acres were still under water today (May 24). “Some areas may not come out of water until mid-June or July 1. I never dreamed water could get that deep.”

Griffith knows of at least one instance where the water simply rose too fast on a producer’s grain bins for him to get rice out. “He had two 50,000-bushel bins full of rice, and the water got up about 5 feet in them. Outside of that, most everyone was able to get everything out.”

Griffith noted that the flooding did create marketing losses for rice producers who had to move last year’s rice crop out of flood-threatened bins. As floodwaters approached, many had to take whatever price was offered them.

Griffith says producers are getting flooded grain bins back on line. “Producers are pulling the motors off, getting them dried out, and checking the bearings. They’re also checking the electrical systems. That’s all ongoing. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Tim Smith, county Extension agent in Obion County, Tenn., said there was very little structural damage from flooding to grain bins, houses and barns, and very few people relocated in the county. “Luckily, what few grain bins were flooded, were empty. I do know that some did get some water in them. The primary damage we have is from flooded farmland.”

Robert Goodson, Extension agent for Phillips County, says a few bins “have some water around them, but overall, we’re in pretty good shape here. We don’t have a lot of flooding except for backwater from the White River.”

Floodwaters from the May 2 intentional breach of the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri, which diverted 550,000 cubic feet per second of water from the Mississippi River into 130,000 acres of prime cropland, have started to take a toll on structures within the floodway.

Structures, including grain bins, that withstood the initial assault from the release of the floodwaters, “are now either crumpled or toppled. How the water did it, I haven’t a clue,” said Kevin Mainord, who farms in the floodway and is mayor of the town of East Prairie, Mo. “Over the last 10 days, there’s been a lot of property damage that hadn’t been done prior.”

Tunica, Miss., producer Justin Cariker says his grain bins were untouched by floodwaters, but he lost three center pivots to a tornado and straight line winds that came through in late April. “Looks like we’ve been handed everything in the book this year.”

First steps

According to an LSU AgCenter publication, “Managing Flooded Grain Bins,” http://www.extension.org/pages/26796/managing-flooded-grain-bins, producers with flooded bins should first inspect the bin, including unloading and aeration equipment and the stored grain. Then contact your insurance company or disaster relief agency for information on documenting losses.

Grain exposed to floodwaters is likely to have sustained damage. Flood-soaked grain is not useable for feed or food due to contaminants that enter with the floodwater. LSU AgCenter says this grain should be destroyed, not blended. Contact local public health and sanitation officials for the best disposal process in your area.

The Food and Drug Administration allows for reconditioning (washing and drying at high temperatures) in cases where the floodwater did not remain long and did not contain contaminants. It is very rare to know for certain whether floodwater is clean, however.

Good grain on top of flooded grain must be removed from the top or side, not down through the damaged grain. Remove grain that is in good condition before attempting to do anything with the portion damaged by floodwaters.

Rain damaged grain, which may occur when roofs of storage structures are damaged during storms, can be saved by drying and cleaning. This grain should be tested for mycotoxins before use. Use reconditioned grain immediately.

Swelling grain inside a bin can shear bolts and elongate holes. Look for signs such as stretched caulking seals, misaligned doors or similar structural problems.

Bin foundations can shift, float or deteriorate from flooding, so inspect structures and foundations carefully. Expect electric wiring, controls and fans to be ruined. Do not energize wet components. Be sure the power is off before touching any electrical components of flooded systems.