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Problems of com storage under Asian tropical conditions




STEVEN GOH describes the problems of corn storage under tropical Asian conditions, which frequently lead to deterioration in the nutritional value of corn.

Corrosion of galvanized steel silos is due primarily to moisture ingress a nd the consequent degradation of the sweated corn fermenting and producing a complex mixture of chemicals amongst which are formic a nd acetic acids, both of which are extremely aggress ive a nd damaging towa rds galvanized coatings a nd steel. Worst a nd best case scena rios for continued exposure to da mp corn predict that the total useful ser vice life of the silos ca n be reduced by half if the cor rosion is left unchecked or proper remedial maintena nce to the corroded surface is not looked in to. Ma ny silos failed because of corrosion a nd neglect.
Fungi or live mold

This paper was origi nally presented at the ..


...., Poultry Feed Quality Conference


~'\, .......

Kuala Lumpur 2-3 August 2010

Fungi, a gro up of mi cro-flora organisms also commonly known as mold that is involved in the deterioration of grains, have been cl assified as field fu ngi, storage fungi, a nd adva nced decay fungi dependin g on the tim e of their invasion a nd colonization of grains before or post harvest. Molds evo lve throu gh several stages during their life span. The vegetative stage is where a mold is actively growing and reproducing - "measured as live mold". It is thi s

stage that is the most dangerous to feed a nd a nimals. The vegetative mold is relatively sensitive to its surroundi ng environmen ts. The spore stage is where a mold is dor ma nt, allow in g the mold to endure very ha rsh environments, e.g. hot or cold temperature, dry co nditions. When the environment is sui table, a mold spore will germinate a nd become a vegeta ti ve mold . In tropical co nditions, members of the genera Aspergillus family is a prolific storage fungi as it favors hot condi tions a nd grows at 13-20% moisture or moistures in equilibrium in a ra nge of 65-90 % relative humidi ty (depending on species) a nd can spo ntaneously heat up to 55 C - first step in spontaneo us combustion in grain mass. These molds a re nearly ubiqui to us in the envir onment a nd all corn kernels have these spores on th eir surface. It is important that we co ntrol mo isture a nd water activity to negate sporelation and the da maging co nsequence. This mold is often associated with granary weevil activities, which is usually a factor in long period storage. Mo lds are livin g organisms a nd therefore their growth is influenced by moisture, temperature, oxygen, a nd substrates. Among these factors, moisture is most critical. Molds cease growth when the moisture level in grains is lowered to below 12%. When the moisture level is

Above: A typical scenario of s weating, corrosion, and discarding of badly damaged corn. Right: Condit ion (no s weating, no corrosion) of the silo -where corn has been treated with an effective prog ram.



loss, where a company's bottom line profit ca n be compromised.

Mold control starts with moisture control

Above left: Corn free from mold contamination, maintaining the germ 's creamy appearance. The germ's nutrient profile is kept intact. Above right: Corn with the typical mold contamination generally accepted as okay and used by feedmillers. Note the damaged germ and live mold toad. This is where the damage goes into broiler feed.


increased to above th at level, molds will start to ger minate and grow. Molds proliferate when moisture levels are above 17%. Humidity can affect gra in moisture, which is why it is extremely challenging to store corn in bags or bulk in an open warehouse. Molds not only produce mycotoxins but also da mage and reduce the nutritiona l va lue of corn. Actively growing molds utilise carbohydrates, particul arly the water soluble ones such as sugars, to produce carbon dioxide, water and heat. Co nsequently the energy va lue of a moldy grain or feed is reduced as carbohydrates are a n important component of energy so urces and the heating process decreases nutrient digestibility. Storing well -dried shelled corn, at 13-14% moisture, in steel silo or even bags in a warehouse in tropical condition is no easy task in controlling fungal contam ination. An insect infestation scenario due to a ch a nge of environment (loca lised moisture spots from moisture migration) conducive for insects to multiply can also further contribute to temperature rise in the grains. In most scenarios, a combination of all the above factors raises water activities (Aw), which is the basic lifeline for mold to rapidly mu ltiply and degrade corn. If uncontrolled, the degradation gets worse the longer co rn is being stored. Hence, we can now understa nd the who le complexity of all these factors, and their contribution to water activities. There is simply no end to all these issues if we have no control over "moisture migration" and then

"grain respiration" as a ga me plan, since both generates a n excess ive a mount of free water.
Challenges involved in maintaining overall grain quality

Besides fungi contam ination, we ca n almost quantify an economic loss on nutrient and energy (AME) value with the degraded corn. The da maging consequence of fungi contamination, loss of va luable nutrients, drop in AME va lue, have a drastic impa ct on feed quality and animal performan ce - and this is where we start to see an economic

Molds consume nu trients and oxygen and produce carbon di oxide, water and heat. The water and heat ca use the humidity of air surrounding nearby kernels to increase above 65 % to 70% and results in further mold growth. We need a chemical program, which can effectively manage Cree water molecules, combining with a long acting mold inhibition property. The challenge for the need to stay effica cious over lengthy storage period . With a proven and effective chemica l progra m (ability to manage moisture with an extrem ely long residua l va lue), we will see: 1. No Sweating, no ca king, a nd no corrosion damage to silo wall. 2. No sponta neous heatin g especially at bottom of Oat bottom silo. 3. Over time - can help reduce the initial live mold count of gra in at point of intake. 4 . Minimise shrinkage - by keeping grain respiration to a minimum. Shown to reduce the usua l shrinkage by about 70%. [>

Brand 'X ' treated corn samples taken at bottom of siloAbove left: Vietnam trial at 5 months. Above right: Vietnam trial at 17 weeks.


<J 5. Over a period of extended use in a silo complex - can greatly reduce insect infestation. 6. Maintain overall grain quality. A cleaner and higher nutrient profile - important for animal performance at farm level. On the contrary, when a product fails to deliver, you wil l see the following obvious signs of failure in long period (2-6 months period) grain storage: Sweating and caking at side wall visible corrosion to silo wall. Apparent (clearly noticeable) spontaneo us heating of corn at bottom of si lo after gravity unloading. Degradation in gra in qua li ty (pale co lor, shriveled - moisture and dry matter loss, darkening of germ area due to pro liferation of live mold and its digestive activities). Heavy insect infestation .
Management Control System 1. Check intake corn quality for moisture and appearance. Photos of incoming corn will be documented - continue to monitor corn quality with digital shots on a monthly basis. 2. A live mold count of fresh intake corn to be taken -this will determine the initial live mold count level. 3. Control of insects -After fully loading a silo, we shall fumigate the silo to kill off any presence of insects. Fumigation to be carried out again after 20 days to kill off any insects that hatched out after the first fumigation. 4. A proper aeration program will greatly help maintain corn quality. The idea of aeration is to basically counter grain respiration that can be triggered from heat conducted through the hot afternoon mid noon sun - whenever possible, we must repel the heat off. 5. At the end of the storage, after gravity unloading- Observe the following to confirm if a mold inhibitor or program has performed or failed: Observe silo side wall for sweating and caking or material sticking to side wall. Observe for insect infestation. Check remaining corn at bottom of silo for spontaneous heating. Finally - observe the quality of corn at bottom of silo. A photo to be taken to match the photos of corn taken at intake. This will show if the quality has been kept intact or has degraded - compare difference in the germ area, and match coloration. Check again for final moisture level to determine degree of shrinkage (due to grain respiration). Take another final live mold count on corn at silo bottom - cross check the figure with the initial live mold count.

This will generate a photo library of your corn qua lity. Using a reasonably good quality digital camera, this provides a company,

a clear documented profile of corn quality over a period of storage. This program offers management

an effective control system in monitoring corn quality and provide ass istance to every aspect of job

Digital Image Data System

A management reference on Grain Quality

Purchasing record / decision Silo/ Production Management Qual ity Control Management Nutrition/ Feed Technical Management Overview & accurate accesss to data for troubleshooting An overview for Top Management 150 and HACCP tracking

Left: Suggestion for a Management Control System - tracking and recording corn quality. Below: Provide detailed information on corn deliveries with photos and documentation.


functions. This exercise will also provide a platform to highlight the effectiveness of a mold inhibition program - as the pictures can clearly show up a ny failures in maintaining grain quali ty (simply by matching the before and after shots). You can also compa re res ults of corn treated with various mold inhib ito rs. All data can be saved in a properly improvised computer

multi-mi ll ions of dollars every yea r from damaged grain, lost a nd und igested nutrients, a nd other ind irect and opportunity costs incurred in the attempt to disguise or neutralize "problems associated with grain degradation ". There is much money to be gained if we take a pro-active decision to minimise the damage. If you star t to ta ke heed of your corn storage, there is always room for improvement to minimise losses. Be wary of how you purchase corn a nd be able to maintain the quali ty all the way over the entire storage period . Benchmark to ga uge corn qu ality over storage is to obser ve the remaining corn at bottom of silo after gravity unloading. The germ should have a creamy appearancea nytime the germ area is di sco lored even to a sli ght shade of gray, you wo uld most certainly have a problem on ha nd .
* Steven Gol1 ( stevm @delstasia.colll ) is Hegional Business Di rector (SEA). OelstA sia Sdn /31Id. Kua la L1 1111p111; Malaysia. Part 1 of tl1 series is was pu/Jiisl1ed in Asia n Poultry Magazine, ]m111ary 20 11 . v. 26-2 9. Tllis vaper was v resented at tl1 Poultry Feed Quality Confermce, e Kuala Lu111p111: Malaysia 2-3 August. 2010.

program and kept for years. The data can be retrieved for trouble-shooting should there be complains of feed quality in the fi eld.

The grain a nd feed Industry loses