Very good growing conditions during this crop season in the Coastal Bend of Texas are resulting in a grain crop that has the potential to produce some excellent yields.

There is the old saying, "don't count your chickens before they are hatched," but one needs to consider the scenario of a bumper grain crop. A bumper grain crop will likely pressure existing area grain storage and handling facilities during and after harvest. Grain producers might want to evaluate their options, including grain bags for temporary storage.

Grain storage in the area is largely a "warehouse" approach to temporarily holding grain after harvest until it can be sold. A bumper grain crop will back up delivery trucks at area elevators, cause harvest delays, and finally storage capacity can be exceeded. So, producers are left pondering what cost-effective options are available to store grain at harvest.

One such option, according to Mac Young, Risk Management Specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, is grain storage bags.

This is a relative new technology that offers producers an alternative for short-term storage. Airtight polyethylene bags were first introduced in the United States in the early 1980s to store forage. Increased U.S. grain production, spurred by a growing world economy and ethanol production, are posing new challenges for handling and storage facilities. The high cost of building new facilities may not be cost-effective for most individuals, users, grain merchants and commercial elevators, according to Young.

Mac Young along with Roy Parker, Extension Entomologist and Steven Klose, Extension Risk Management Specialist, recently conducted a study that provides a comparative illustration of the estimated producer costs for storing and handling grain at local elevators, in on-farm storage bins, and in grain bags. According to Young, the results show that grain bagging has a cost advantage over on-farm and commercial storage. Storing grain in bags can compliment on-farm and commercial storage in any crop year. Grain bags at least offer a viable option for short-term storage during bumper crop years and the potential for reducing harvest delays.

The estimated cost of storing grain in grain bags ranged from $0.22 to $0.24 per bushel as compared to on-farm storage ($0.33/bu. to $0.34/bu) and commercial storage($0.72/bu. to $0.74/bu).

Storing grain in bags has its advantages and disadvantages which must also be considered. Advantages include: harvest flexibility with less harvest delays and more storage in good crop years, minimal capital investment, reduced storage costs and less moisture loss, the storage environment reduces insect management expenses, and, finally flexibility in crops planted. The disadvantages will include: bags are temporary storage and you cannot warehouse receipt grain stored in bags, cannot load or unload bags in wet weather, when calculating farmer and landlord shares - determining how much grain is stored is difficult, bags can be damaged by rats, birds and other animals, high moisture grain cannot be placed in bags, and bags must be placed on solid, level, well-drained sites.

A management decision to store all or part of a crop in grain bags must be weighed based on a producer's ability to handle risk, individual business preferences, labor availability and marketing issues, according to Young. More information regarding the study done in 2009 comparing the economics of grain storage bags can be found at the following Web address; http://coastalbend.tamu.edu/Extension/Risk%20Management/Grainstoragebags.pdf.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5217.