Grain Bins and Dryers on 'Hot Ticket' List

Farmers scramble to improve set-ups during off season.

Published on: Feb 18, 2010
More repots indicate that trends forming even before harvest completely ended are continuing. Several inside the grain industry say the big push amongst farmers right now is to seek out information about grain dryers, grain bins and maybe wet holding space. Then many say they're going to buy the units they like best and add on to their grain handling systems.

At least one grain industry insider insinuated that farmers were overreacting. His opinion is that they are only thinking about last season. For some, that just ended within the past couple of months. For a few, it's still not over. You can still find corn in the field in Indiana, and even more corn in the field in northern Illinois and in Wisconsin.

In fact, there's so much corn in some states still in the field that USDA says it's going to take another look and make another final estimate on corn yield in those states once harvest is more complete. However, Indiana is not one of the states targeted to be reviewed at this time. The whopping 171 bushels per acre average yield for Indiana reported in the final estimate is expected to stand for Indiana.

The insider notes that grain driers got little use for four-to-five years prior to 2010. He wonders if making major updates to grain systems and perhaps either trading for a better dryer or buying a new dryer is justified based on what happened in one season.

The answer is likely 'it depends.' Some folks who have reported in say they had neglected their drying and grain handling system, partly because they hadn't needed excess capacity in the fall for a long time. It was almost 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind' because for the last few years before 2009, most grain came out of the field needing little if any artificial drying. Some was dry enough to finish aerating and drying in bins equipped with fans large enough to accomplish that purpose.

These farmers say they were going under the assumption that modern corn hybrids dried down quicker, and that they also matured faster and could be harvested earlier. As a result, they weren't finding as much need for a drier. While that argument may still hold water, Mother Nature demonstrated who was in control last fall.

The prudent solution may boil down to a case by case basis. If someone had glaring weaknesses in drying and grain handling, so glaring that they could hold up harvest and stop combines with only a little bump in the road, then the fact that they came to light last season may be a blessing. Some of those could be relatively easy to fix, and perhaps involve trading up to a bigger dryer or looking at capacity for handling wet corn.

Some may be harder to solve and require much more capital investment. Those are the ones where you may need to push the pencil harder, experts say.