If you had $250,000 in cash under your mattress, would you leave it unattended and unchecked for weeks or even months at a time while you passed time playing poker with your buddies at deer camp? Why then, asks James Smith with Delta Rice Services in Cleveland, Miss., do some growers do exactly that with the valuable rice being stored in their grain bins?

“If you are going to store rice in a grain bin, check on it just like you would if you were storing money in that grain bin, because in essence that's what you are doing,” he says.

In fact, he says, if more growers would treat their harvested rice crop the same way they treat the bills in their wallet, the quality discounts they get for stained grains could be avoided or at the very least greatly reduced. One pale stain can quickly drop the price received for rice by 70 to 80 cents per bushel, and the darker the stain the more it will be discounted by processors.

Stained rice often results from high-moisture grain being subjected to excessive high temperatures of 135 to 150 degrees F without proper aeration and drying. The longer rice is stored under these condition, the darker it can become.

“This type of damage is critical. Neither exporters nor domestic mills have any interest at all in discolored grains,” Smith says. “Heat-damaged rice usually is sold for $1 per bushel to a processor for pet food, and dark-stained rice with an odor is difficult to market at any price.”

According to Smith, stain can occur in the combine, the grain cart, or the grain bin. It is not, he says, going to happen in the field. “When growers harvest a rice sample with a moisture level greater than 20 percent, they'll often leave it in the combine for a few days before going back into the field. It's going to get hot in that combine, and the rice is going to stain.”

Because rice needs aeration to avoid heat damage, Smith suggests avoiding harvest until the grain moisture level has dropped below 18 percent. He also asks his customers to avoid leaving rice on combines, grain carts or trucks for more than 24 hours if the moisture level is above 18 percent, or for more than 48 hours if the moisture level is above 16 percent.

“Once you put your rice in the bin at 17 to 21 percent moisture, you've got to level it off and put air to it quickly, or it is going to be disastrous,” he says. “You must also maintain the proper temperature and check those bins frequently, even when the moisture levels drops down to 15 or 16 percent.”

Smith suggests routinely pulling a grain sample to check the temperature and the moisture level while rice is in a grain bin. In addition, he recommends keeping a moisture record book documenting moisture levels daily until the moisture reaches 12 to 12.5 percent at the top of the bin. Moisture levels should then be checked and recorded every two weeks. “Rice may equalize, and moisture may increase 1 to 2 percent after drying has stopped for five to seven days,” he says.

“We can blend off a soybean or two, but we cannot blend off stained rice,” Smith says. “Soybeans are a weed to us, but that problem is easily handled simply by sufficiently cleaning out your combines.”