Prepare for potentially high drying costs

The nearly ideal weather is yielding concerns that some of the grain will be harvested wetter than normal and require more artificial drying for storage.

“It looks like it’s going to be a great crop, and it definitely looks like it could be a wet harvesting year,” said Klein Ileleji, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University. “Farmers should be working now to avoid problems later on.”

Adequate drying is an especially important consideration for growers who plan to store their crop rather than sell it immediately, Ileleji said. Excess moisture makes stored grain more susceptible to spoilage.

Under more normal conditions, farmers would bring in their corn with a moisture content of about 20%, Ileleji said. The grain can be safely stored for six months with moisture content of 15% and up to a year at 14%.

This year, because cooler temperatures and damp air delayed dry-down in the field, some farmers could be bringing in crops with moisture content of 25% or higher.

Wringing out that extra moisture will be a challenge, Ileleji said.

“We typically talk about taking out 5% or more of the moisture in the drying process. Now we could be talking about 10% or more for some of the crop,” he said.

Drying units could be taxed by the extra work, so farmers should make sure their equipment is in good working order, Ileleji said.

“Wet corn will not flow smoothly through the machine and could clog the mechanism,” he said. “Because post-harvest drying is a time-consuming process, there is a tendency to try to do too much at once, which simply leads to breakdowns and additional delays.”

Ileleji stressed that operators should never reach into a drying unit or storage bin with flowing grain to clear a jam.

“That is a significant safety hazard,” he said.

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