What to do When Grain is Too Wet or Too Dry

02:25PM Oct 13, 2017
Corn harvest is in full swing.
( Sonja Begemann )

At the end of the season every precious kernel you’ve slaved to produce that is entrusted in grain storage holds your farm’s future and your management of the grain helps dictate just how good of a future that will be.

Spoilage, insects, mechanical damage and other common storage issues stand the chance of robbing you of profit. In addition, managing the space you have in storage is critical to maximize your carry and opportunity for better prices.

It starts with harvest.

“If you have a dry harvest the grain is more prone to mechanical damage due to the lower moisture content,” says Kenneth Hellevang, North Dakota State Extension agricultural engineer and professor. “On the other end of the spectrum, with wet grain, you’ll probably need to spend a little more on drying.”

Understand your harvest and storage strategy changes based on the season. For example in soybeans, if it’s a dry year understand splits, cracks and other mechanical damage caused by the combine open grain up to a number of potential problems.

“The more splits there are the easier it is for insects to eat the grains as well as for molds and spoilage to occur,” he adds. “We’re looking at greater storage concerns and problems when we have drier grain with mechanical damage.”

Anything below about 13% moisture in soybeans puts you at greater risk of harvest and storage damage in soybeans. If you can harvest soybeans in the early morning, when dew provides a little moisture, or in days with higher humidity you’ll be better off and likely in the 13% to 15% sweet spot. Corn you’re looking for moisture to be a bit higher—in the 18% to 20% range.

Alternatively, if you’re in a wetter part of the country you carry less risk of splitting or grain loss in the field, but higher dry down cost. “From a quality and economic loss perspective, we’re typically better off not waiting for them to dry in the field,” Hellevang says. “I encourage farmers to harvest soybeans at 15% and even up to 16% moisture.”

From there, use natural drying or a high temperature dryer at a lower temperature, about 100° to 130°, he explains. “Yes, it will cost money to run beans through the drier, but we’re more likely to get beans to that 13% moisture and have good quality and maximum weight to market them for a better price.”