Natural air-drying of grain has its advantages. Still, many growers may not have the time or space to make a go of it.
For those looking to dry grain using the conventional approach, Purdue University’s Richard Stroshine has a few tips.
First, he reminds growers that conventional dryers simply blow hot air across the kernel’s surface. Taking five points of moisture out may not be a problem, but subsequent grain handling can create excess fines.
“The hot air is pulling moisture from the kernel’s surface, causing it to shrink,” Stroshine explains. “At the same time, a lot of moisture is still in the kernel’s center, where there is resistance to shrinkage.”
• Fast and furious drying can result in brittle corn.
• If you plan to store grain until next summer, aim for 14%.
• This may be a tough storage year, so stick to fundamentals.
The process typically results in stress fractures developing within the kernel. The most immediate problem is increased fines. From a long-term standpoint, the fines can result in more insect infestations and reduced aeration.
Test weight usually increases as a result of drying. “How much increase you get can be affected by whether the corn is dried at high or low temperatures,” Stroshine notes. He says some studies suggest there is not as much increase in test weight with corn dried with high-temp air vs. low-temp drying.
To get better quality results with a conventional dryer, Stroshine says you can try setting up a dryeration bin. This is a bin without airflow, where hot corn is delivered directly from the dryer and allowed to cool, without aeration, for four to six hours. If the grain comes out of the field above 20%, Stroshine says multiple passes in the dryer can improve its quality.
Also, be mindful of how long you plan to store the crop.
Corn that is kept cool and will be sold by early March should be fine at 15% or even 15.5% moisture. For those planning to store corn into next summer, Stroshine recommends a 14.5% maximum.
Even at 14% moisture, storage through summer has some risk. Stroshine remembers a year in the 1980s when temperatures hit 100 degrees F routinely in July. By early August, he found evidence that mold problems had begun to develop in some small test bins. That corn went in at 14.3% moisture.
If any season was geared toward producing grain quality problems, 2011 seems to be it. Heat stress and a late harvest could make storage a tough proposition this fall.
GSI’s Gary Woodruff has a host of reminders for farmers going into harvest. First off, do not underestimate the importance of bin coring to reduce fines.
“Using a grain spreader will help increase airflow to the center of the bin,” Woodruff notes. “But nothing will beat repetitive coring of 300 to 500 bushels out of the bin for every 10 to 15 feet of grain added.”
Don’t have the time? Consider this: Your local elevator does. This fine-heavy grain is used soon after harvest. Blend it or feed it; just don’t store it through winter.
Remember that wet grain is heavy grain. Woodruff explains that 25% moisture corn has about 13% more physical volume than corn at 15% moisture. The number of truckloads increases, as does the toll it takes on handling equipment.
Even at 15% moisture, proper aeration and management is still necessary, Woodruff says. If you want a low-maintenance storage situation, he advises you to dry corn to 13% moisture. Be warned, that will take a lot of fuel, and you’ll likely lose money at the elevator or point of sale.
“This year will probably be a difficult harvest and storage season,” Woodruff concludes. “Preparation and good management will be more important than ever. Don’t prolong a difficult season by having to deal with out-of-condition grain.”
DRY IT DOWN: GSI’s Gary Woodruff notes wet corn is heavy, causing more wear and tear on augers.
This article published in the September, 2011 edition of PRAIRIE FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.