Harvest will undoubtedly bring more challenges as farmers race to get the most they can from crops after a challenging season. If you planted this year, you’re likely looking for the best marketing opportunities for grain and trying to maximize what you can pick up in the combine—which might mean you’ll need to dry more grain.
Because harvest will already be in a tight window of time, it could be beneficial to pick the crop at higher moisture contents to ensure you salvage as much yield as possible.
“I know it will be wetter, but starting at 28% or so gives you a week or two more time to get grain in,” says Gary Woodruff, GSI district manager. “If frost comes early this year, [and the crop hasn’t reached black layer and is, therefore, incredibly wet] you’ll immediately take your dryer to half- or less-than-half of normal drying capacity.”
Drying high-moisture grain can be tricky. Here are a few valuable, late-fall corn management tips from Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural engineer:
- Consider cooling grain and holding it until early spring to dry if outside temperatures are below 35 degrees F. Cool grain to 20 to 25 degrees for winter storage and complete drying in April to avoid spoilage.
- If cooling grain, it requires a positive-pressure airflow rate of 0.2 cubic feet per minute, per bu. or 12 cubic feet per minute per hour of fill rate.
- Limit grain depth to 20’ to 22’ to keep desirable airflow rate for drying.
- Do not run fans during rain, fog or snow to minimize moisture in the bin.
- If using a high-temperature dryer set it at the highest temperature that won’t damage the grain to increase the dryer’s capacity while reducing energy consumption. For example, the energy to remove 1 pound of water is about 20% less at 200 degrees F than at 150 degrees F.
Make sure you’re monitoring grain placed in dryers or in bins to make sure it reaches optimum moisture ranges. Get corn down to 13% moisture, soybeans to 11% and wheat to 13% to avoid spoilage in long-term storage, Hellevang recommends. If you are unable to cool the grain, corn with a moisture content higher than 21% will need to dry in a high-temperature dryer because it can deteriorate rapidly.
If you’re using in-bin drying systems it’s important to monitor the grain and understand there are different management needs for higher moisture crops.
“If you’re using in-bin systems, you’ll either need a circulator or stirring device if you plan on putting anything in over 20%,” says David Luff, president of Luffland Builders, who sells Sukup and Brock grain bins. “If you don’t, you will over dry the bottom and the top will be wet.”
Natural Air-Dry Flow Rate Recommendations (C: Ken Hellevang)
- Corn: For natural air-drying, assure that the fan's airflow rate is at least 1 cubic foot per minute per bushel (cfm/bu) and the initial corn moisture does not exceed 21%. Start the fan when the outdoor temperature averages about 40°F.
- Soybeans: Use an airflow rate of at least 1 cfm/bu to natural air-dry up to 15% to 16% moisture soybeans. Start the fan when the outdoor temperature averages about 40°F. Follow the manufacturer's recommendation for high-temperature drying soybeans. Monitor the soybean quality and reduce the drying temperature if excessive cracking or splitting occurs. Reduce the fire hazard by keeping the soybeans flowing in the dryer. Pods and trash can become lodged and combustible. Frequently clean the dryer to remove anything that may impede flow. Constantly monitor the dryer when drying soybeans.
- Wheat: Use an airflow rate of at least 0.75 cfm/bu to natural air-dry up to 17% moisture wheat. Start drying when the outside air temperature averages about 50°F.