When grain is collected from the field, it is made up of dry material and water. Water is needed for plant growth and therefore grain production, but too much water can create storage-related issues. To avoid this, farmers need to make sure they are drying grain to desired moisture content levels after harvest.
Additionally, they need to lower and maintain grain temperature to within a couple of degrees of the air’s temperature. This reduces the likelihood of insects, pests, fungi, and mold infiltrating your stored grain and negatively impacting market values. Therefore, monitoring your stored grain’s moisture is imperative.
Grain drying is perhaps the most energy-consuming aspect of the farm operation. It can also be one of the most money-draining parts of farming. Figuring out how to dry grain in a cost-effective way can be challenging. There isn’t a quick fix solution because no two farms are alike, but there are several energy-saving tips farmers can use. Here are our top five.
Grain Drying in All-Heat Mode
This is an oldie, but still a goodie. According to experts, running a dryer in all-heat mode remains one of the most cost-effective ways of drying grain. With this technique, you are heating the grain in the dryer and let it cool in the bin. The benefit of this is that the grain can come out of the dryer with higher moisture content. Between one and three points will be lost during the cooling process. It’s drying those last few points that require the most energy.
This grain drying method can save you between 20-30% of your operating costs. The all-heat mode also boosts efficiency due to grain moving through the dryer more rapidly. Additionally, this technique improves grain quality. Farmers who have bins that are 50,000 bushels or less need to increase their number of roof vents. They will also require bigger aeration fans in order to use this grain drying system effectively.
There are a few drawbacks to all-heat mode. For one, this method won’t work on the majority of bins larger than 50,000 bushels. The all-heat mode is one of the most inexpensive ways to help you handle grain drying but it also requires the most management. If you’re already lacking time, this would not be a good fit for you.
Level Up: Upgrade to Heat Recovery – Vacuum Cooling
For farmers with bigger operations, it is more effective for grain to be cool when it comes out of the dryer. In this scenario heat recovery or vacuum, cooling is essential. The heat that is emitted by the cooling grain is recycled during the drying process. This means less fuel is needed to increase the drying air temperature. This grain drying system can be more efficient than all-heat drying but it has more upfront costs. It will require a larger grain dryer that has this newer technology. Vacuum cooling is available on centrifugal stack dryers, centrifugal dryers, and tower dryers.
Grain Drying Basics: Dry Evenly
It’s a simple, yet fundamental tip – dry grain evenly. When a dryer dries grain quicker in some sections and slower in other sections, the dryer will correct itself incorrectly. That means it will begin to over dry some of the grain to correct the under-dried grain. This increases drying costs because extra fuel is needed while also lowering grain weights from over-drying.
There are several systems on the market that can help farmers dry their grain more evenly. The Sukup Manufacturing Co. is one company that can help. They offer single-module and stacked dryers that utilize a quad-metering roll system. Essentially, this system tugs dryer grain towards the inside of the grain pillar out of the dryer quicker, while keeping the wetter grain close to the outside of the pillar in the dryer longer. The stacked system also has a grain crossover process that inverts the grain drying it more evenly.
GSI is another company that can help farmers dry their grain more evenly with grain inverter systems. Movement is the key to this drying method. Inverters move all of the grain with the exception of the outer two inches within the pillar. The heated grain is redirected from inside the pillar and pushed next to the dampest grain from the outside of the pillar. This method salvages about 15% of the heat that might have been lost.
Keep the Plenum Temperature High
According to Gary Woodruff, GSI “one thing you might not be aware of is that the higher you run your plenum temperature, the more efficiently you dry grain.” Often times at the end of a season, farmers will lower their plenum temperature in order to save fuel. Unfortunately, this causes the opposite effect. Higher temperatures lessen the drying time and thus save you fuel. Of course, higher temperatures have the potential to do more damage so finding a balance is important.
Get a Remote Monitoring System
Perhaps the most efficient tool in ensuring that you don’t over-dry your grain is a remote temperature monitoring system. These systems allow you to monitor your grain’s condition from a computer, tablet, smartphone, or other electronic device. They also allow you to check that your equipment is running efficiently. This gives you flexibility and increased productivity and performance. When something is amiss, remote monitoring systems will alert you in enough time for you to make the corrective changes.