Developing Sustainable Stored Grain IPM Systems in Oklahoma and Texas

2004 Annual Report for LS02-139

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $133,371.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: Oklahoma
Principal Investigator:
Thomas Phillips
Oklahoma State University

Developing Sustainable Stored Grain IPM Systems in Oklahoma and Texas


Sealing work on concrete silo exterior under-roof vents at Nash and Yukon, OK were completed by the PI and OK Field Manager. The maintenance crew at the Ponca City elevator sealed their own silo vents and flat storage structure with guidance from the PI during the winter and spring, 2003. They also coordinated installation of temperature monitoring cables in the silos with suction aeration/CLF system. With technical guidance by the PI, the maintenance crew at Farmers Grain Company, Pond Creek installed CLF systems at their elevator at Nash, OK and a second elevator at Medford, OK in September-October, 2004.

The PI designed and purchased components for two low volume suction aeration systems that could be retrofitted to concrete silo systems at Yukon and Ponca City and suction equipment for the flat storage at Ponca City during the spring and summer, 2003.

The Ponca City elevator maintenance crew installed their own suction aeration system and CLF system in concrete silos and flat storage warehouse during the spring and summer, 2003.

The PI and OK Field Manager worked with maintenance personnel at Yukon, OK elevator to install the suction aeration and CLF systems during the late summer, fall and winter of 2003.
The PI and OK Field Manager worked with the Tonkawa farmer to seal two steel grain storage bins and install his CLF system and aeration controller in fall and winter of 2003 and early 2004.

Research work, lead by the PI and research engineer (RE) continued steadily throughout 2003 through 2004 on the Electronic Bin Board and Electronic Grain Blending Model (EGBM). During the spring and summer, 2003, the decision was made to change from a linear based software program to GAMS, which changed EGBM from a slow-speed program limited to analyzing 10-12 silos maximum with close, but not exactly repeatable results on successive iterations using identical inputs, to a very fast global optimum (exactly repeatable) program capable of analyzing optimum blending of up to 175 silos simultaneously in less than 5 seconds.

The EGBM has been evaluated for direct linkup and high speed communication with a new commercial software from an elevator scale manufacturing company, Unibridge, Inc, Woodward, OK. EGBM Beta tests have been initiated at several OK elevators, including one unit-train country elevator and one inland terminal elevator at Shattuck and Enid, OK.

In mid-April, 2004, the PI, RE and software engineer working on EGBM took the software to Shattuck OK and demonstrated the system, and received valuable feedback from experienced elevator grain managers. Elevator operator feedback is being received to improve EGBM. The results appear to be very good, both with independent and without linkup capabilities.

Sustainable practices -- Sealing, CLF, suction aeration, computer grain segregation and optimum grain blending (EGBM), grain temperature monitoring.

Objectives/Performance Targets


1. Demonstrate and compare closed loop fumigation (CLF) technology in well sealed storages with conventional fumigation as a cost effective, sustainable IPM component of Oklahoma and Texas farm and elevator grain storage systems to improve efficacy, safety, and profit.
2. Conduct physical and economic benefit analysis of suction vs pressure aeration systems operated by electro-mechanical automatic aeration controllers compared with manual control in steel bins and concrete silos at farms and elevators.
3. Document the practicality, including cost/benefits, of increasing aeration airflow rates from the standard 0.1 cfm/bu to 0.2-0.3 cfm/bu in bolted steel farm and elevator storage systems.
4. Evaluate physical and economic practicality of installing low airflow suction aeration plus CLF in existing concrete silos to minimize "grain turning" while improving sanitation and safety.
5. Document worker exposure to phosphine fumigant health hazards and safety using CLF vs conventional fumigation.
6. Establish a quarterly newsletter focused on grain storage IPM for farmers and elevator operators in OK, TX and other states available via OSU's Stored Product Internet web-site.

7. New Objective Added in 2003: Develop a computer or website-based software model that will serve as an electronic bin board (current operating storage record of all grain in identified silos) and electronic grain blending model to provide repeatable, global optimum grain blending to meet contract or market specifications while maintaining the maximum amount of premium grain.

Performance Targets 2003-2005:

A valuable additional sub-objective of Objective 6 (developing optimum grain segregation and blending model –EGBM) was included in 2003-2004. This sustainable product of benefit to grain elevator managers was work which could be developed for inclusion in the planned OSU SARE website. Thus, elevator grain managers could access the EGBM on a daily basis through the OSU SARE Website as needed when they are ready to market their grain.

The development of the OSU SARE Website (Objective 6) has been on-going from mid-2003 through 2005. In addition to providing a platform for U.S. citizens to access technology developed during this project, additional technical materials developed by the PI has been included in the OSU SARE Website.

Due to the retirement of the PI, Dr. Tom Phillips, grain storage research entomologist and member of the project team has agreed to assume the leadership role of PI during the remainder of the project.


Because a deep probe grain sampling technician could not be hired and base-line grain sampling at the start of harvest was missed, project grain sample comparisons and much of the related work could not be performed. This resulted in not sampling grain in Texas and OK, not completing and installing most of the aeration controllers or closed loop fumigation systems (all TX units and most of the OK units).

However, part of the important demonstration work that could be accomplished in OK with the OK Field Manager was conducted as outlined below.


Permanent sealing of grain storage structures to exclude insect entry below the roof is one of the most sustainable projects that a grain manager can do. Good quality sealing lasts for decades, and continues to provide sustainable grain management value during the life of the structure.

The steel bins at the Feller Green farm, Wakita, OK were sealed in the summer, 2002. Sealing of concrete silo under-roof vents was completed on grain elevators by the PI and OK Field Manager at Nash and Yukon, OK during late summer, 2003. Steel bins at the Joe Caughlin farm, Tonkawa, OK were sealed during the fall, 2003. The maintenance crew at the Farmers Coop Elevator, Ponca City, OK sealed their concrete silo annex and the adjacent grain warehouse, where they also installed suction aeration and CLF systems using materials supplied by the project. Their work was coordinated under guidance and direction by the PI.


The suction aeration and closed loop fumigation (CLF) systems for the flat storage warehouse and north concrete silo annex were designed, purchased, delivered to the Farmers Coop Elevator, Ponca City, OK by the PI. The elevator maintenance and management crew installed these systems and completed the related sealing and temperature cable installations during the summer, 2003. The PI tested the system for performance characteristics during the late summer, 2003. The aeration controller was also installed at the Farmers Coop Elevator, Ponca City, OK by the elevator maintenance crew during the summer, 2003.

The suction aeration and CLF systems for the north concrete silo annex were designed, purchased, and delivered to Mid-Oklahoma Elevator, Yukon, OK during the late summer, 2003. The PI and OK Field Manager worked with the elevator maintenance crew during the late summer and fall to install this system. The electrical work to connect the suction aeration fan and CLF blower was completed during February-March, 2004.

Installing aeration systems to cool grain and minimize pesticide use and installing/using CLF systems to provide uniform, phosphine gas levels with reduced dosages are also long term sustainable projects of high value and efficacy which improve profits.


During the first year of the project, a new low cost sub-objective of Objective 6 (Website development) of great sustainable value which could be developed within the budget was conceived by the PI and supported as being doable by the Research Engineer (RE). This was a sustainable grain management and marketing system tool, the development computer software to form an electronic bin board combined with an electronic grain blending model (EGBM). Discussions with leading grain elevator managers in OK indicated this software would be a highly valuable tool for U.S. grain elevator managers and grain marketers at all levels. The EGBM software will help grain managers at U.S. grain elevators as well as flour and feed mills to optimize sorting, storing, managing, controlling of quality characteristics and marketing of their grain to minimize discounts and maximize profits using their highest quality grain to maximum advantage.

This new sub-objective -- to design, develop and test a computer software program for tracking and optimizing the blending of grain to maximize elevator profit was included as part of Objective 6 in the project.

The EGBM software program includes all U.S. grain grade factors plus protein, test weight and moisture content. The EGBM software is designed to store and automatically calculate most available grain market discount schedules.

After several iterations and tests of alternative linear programs, the RE found that early programs were limited in computing capacity and accuracy so that it could analyze for optimum blending to about 10-12 silos but results were close, but not totally repeatable. We felt that to be effective, the program should be able to analyze at least 40 silos simultaneously and rapidly with global optimum identical/repeatable results.

During the summer, 2003, the RE found a program which was virtually unlimited in speed and volume called GAMS. A free downloadable version of GAMS can handle 190 variables (up to about 175 silos simultaneously) and process full sets of our data in 3-5 seconds. GAMS drives the EGBM software program model effectively. It produces “global optimum” solutions consistently with repeat runs of identical data. Data from as many as 150 silos have been processed simultaneously for blending large shipments of grain. A user-friendly interface has been developed during the winter, 2003=2004. In early April, 2004 our project group felt the EGBM software was ready for Beta testing. We demonstrated the EGBM software at a meeting with Unibridge, Inc. (a progressive truck scale company from Woodward, OK) which had developed a software package that incorporates truck load grain weight data with grain grading data to build spread sheet files for all received grain.

After reviewing both systems the RE and Unibridge’s grain data software (UGDS) consultant felt these two software packages can be linked for automatic feed-forward and feed-back data transfer communication. This communication would allow UGDS to forward all silo fill data (which includes the data of all graded grain by truck loads that had been transferred to designated silos) to EGBM , then as each new truck load of grain arrived, was sampled and graded, UGDS would query EGBM for the silo which the new truckload of grain was most nearly like and whether there was space for that load in the silo.

Although these systems seem to have potential to interface, the EGBM can be used independently at country or terminal elevators without UGDS truck scale software. EGBM can receive data from EXCEL spread sheets, which a grain elevator clerk or grain manager can complete, then load into the EGBM. Data for a large number of individual silos can be manually loaded into EGBM.

The main strength of EGBM is its ability to take evaluate grain characteristics in a large number of silos and consistently prescribe the optimum grain blend from these silos to meet contract or market specifications, while still retaining the maximum volume of premium or high value grain. With discount schedules preloaded into EGBM from all designated or selected markets, a grain manager can decide where he can sell his grain at maximum profits based on grain discounts and transportation expense. The EGBM will provide U.S. elevator managers with a sustainable marketing tool that they have not had access to – EGBM calculate infinitely faster and more precisely than any grain manager can do manually. Yet, it allows him the flexibility of manually controlling the process. By removing or blocking out selected silos from the blending process, the manager can force EGBM to use the limited data as he chooses.

The EGBM development has resulted in an excellent sustainable product which appears to provide a major, long term benefit for OK, TX and U.S. grain elevator managers.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

1. SEALING grain storages -- seems like a simple, unimportant act – but it is very important.

Proper sealing of a grain storage structure of any type -- sealing all fans and base openings except when ready for use, like aeration in the fall, and grain unloading augers sealed until time to unload the grain -- will keep insects out of the base of the grain storage, and force them to enter the top, where they are much easier to monitor and control.

Thus, SEALING is one of the most important, sustainable, cost effective actions – and the best investment -- that an elevator manager or farmer can do for his grain storage facility.

Sealing improves fumigation of any type of structure by a factor of 2X to 8X (or more, based on a concrete silo sealing study by Noyes in 2001), depending on how leaky it was initially. Proper base and sidewall sealing provides barriers to insect entry to the base and sidewalls of storage units, forcing insects to enter at the grain surface where they are easier to identify, contain and control. Sealing is low cost, can be done with local labor when work loads are low, and benefits last indefinitely.

2. OSU/SARE Website –

Includes SARE Project, other OSU, USA and international grain industry technology. During late 2004 and 2005 we developed the OSU/SARE Website in conjunction with the OSU Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) Department website, with linkages to the OSU Stored Product Center (SPREC) Websites and the Stored Grain IPM Website. We have included display presentations, illustrations and discussion of grain bin and silo sealing materials and technology, dust control technology, closed loop fumigation (CLF) systems, aeration controllers, suction aerations systems at two SARE sites and the EGBM software product.

In addition to OSU grain storage related websites, the SARE Website has linkages with the USDA Grain Marketing and Production Research Center (USGMPRC), Manhattan, KS, the Post Harvest Education and Research Center (PHERC) Website, Purdue University (Dr. Dirk Maier), the Stored Grain Research Center website, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB (Dr. Digvir Jayas, V-Pres., Research), CSIRO, Canberra, AUS, the Stored Product Department, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), Volcani Center, Bet Degan, Israel (Dr. Shlomo Navarro), the Stored Product Research Laboratory, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ankara, Ankara, Turkey, and the Central Research Laboratory, York, UK. Additional U.S. linkages are with grain related agricultural engineering websites at the University of Minnesota, (Dr. Bill Wilcke); University of Nebraska (Dr. Jeyam Subbiah – former RE of the OSU SARE Project), University of North Dakota, and the University of Kentucky.

Although the OSU-SARE Website is linked and operational, some fine-tuning is still in progress. We are still working and testing EGBM for user-friendliness and operational function. We feel that by mid-late fall, 2005, it should be ready for full service.

3. EGBM software model

We feel that EGBM is one of the most powerful grain marketing tools developed in the past quarter century for U.S. grain industry. It has the potential of being a major input for U.S. grain managers, benefiting producers and elevators by helping keep elevators competitive and in business to service local farmer clients. If EGBM can successfully communicate with UGDS and/or similar software, it can further develop into a major automated industry marketing tool for the U.S. grain and milling industry.

Although developed initially for wheat, we have expanded the EGBM protocol plan to handle most of the large volume commercial U.S. cereal and coarse grains and oil seeds which have U.S. grain standards: corn, soybeans, sunflowers, sorghum, barley, rice, oats.


When the very ambitious objectives of this project are considered, the project might appear to be a failure. But, when one valuable sustainable product can be developed in a $133,000 project, I feel the project has been successful. We have an excellent product evolving from this study.
Sealing storages is a powerful management tool. It is the most sustainable action that a farmer or elevator grain manager can do. Even though we did not seal as many as planned, we have an excellent set of illustrations that will be displayed on the website.

The new OSU/SARE Website not only reports some grain storage technologies that have been enhanced through this study, but it provides an outlet for earlier and current sustainable practices that the PI and others have developed. The U.S. and international linkages should provide an excellent resource for producers and commercial grain managers for many years in the future.

The electronic grain inventory and blending model – EGBM -- was not in the original stable (original objectives) of planned work and products. It wasn’t even conceived until the project was underway, but it is certainly a product that evolved out of this study. It quickly came into focus as we began to work with the grain industry of OK and TX.

The EGBM has the potential for saving multi-millions of dollars in unnecessary grain discounts with properly blended grain to meet market or contract specifications, or to meet unit-train load requirements, making significant increases in elevator profits. It can be a sustainable profit generator for country grain elevators, terminals and mills in OK, TX and throughout the U.S.

I am pleased to submit this 2004 Annual Report outlining some major success from this project.

Respectfully Submitted July 18, 2005

Ron Noyes (in lieu of signature)

Ronald T. Noyes, Ph.D., P.E., Project Leader (Replaced in May, 2005 by Dr. Tom Phillips)
Professor Emeritus, Former Extension Agricultural Engineer
Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering Department.
Oklahoma State University