Consider On-Farm Dryers to Reduce Post-Harvest Loss

Grain Storage System ( Sara Schafer )

Right now, harvest might seem far away. But in just a few short weeks, combines will be rolling, grain wagons hauling and grain bins filling. The way you dry and store your grain will greatly impact your ability to sell when the market is right—make sure you have a plan.

At the end of the season when corn and soybeans stand in fields and dry down, they’re prey to many pathogens, insects and weather conditions. If you want to avoid those threats harvest grain early—make sure you have a plan for drying.

“One of the biggest selling points we see for on-farm drying is it eliminates mystery loss,” says Nathan Luff, owner Luffland Builders, a Sukup distributor in Bates City, Mo. “It’s loss that farmers can’t pinpoint the exact cause, could be dropped ears, disease, shrinkage—loss that happens between grain fill and getting the crop in the bin.”

Running grain through a dryer, instead of relying on field- or bin-drying, is faster and can be safer for grain in long-term storage. Dryers get grain to a precise moisture content and increase uniformity in every kernel. Uniform moisture helps decrease your risk of molds such as aflatoxin and can help reduce your risk of “hot spots” in bins.

 “If you’re harvesting at moisture levels greater than 25%, be aware that your dryer’s capacity will be less than typical,” says Joe Shulfer, president of Mathews Company grain dryer manufacturer in based in Crystal Lake, Ill.

When you set up your dryer for the first time, company representatives can help walk you through how it all works and how to account for higher moisture content. Be sure to set your expectations for speed accordingly if grain comes in wet this year.

“Using a dryer versus a bin, on wet grain especially, gets the whole batch dry evenly,” Luff says. “With bin drying if you don’t have moisture sensor cables you might not know the grain on top is much wetter than what’s on bottom. That can lead to crusting, which can be really dangerous.”

If it’s dry in your area and stays that way, dryers can still help maintain profitability. If grain simply dries down in the field it could endure stalk rot, shattering, wind damage or other ailments that lead to kernel or ear drop in the field. Dryers give you the opportunity to take it out at a safer, higher moisture level.

With improved technology you can manage dryers from your phone, so harvest and other activities aren’t interrupted. Just like grain bin technology has improved, so have dryers and sensors and monitors allow you to adjust on the fly.

“We’ve used remote technology for several years—but now, not only can you monitor the dryer remotely, but the user also has the ability to control their machine and also store operational data for post-harvest analysis,” Shulfer says. “We can retrofit old driers with this technology, but often times it makes more sense to invest in a new dryer system that will provide many years of trouble-free operation, include the newest controls, achieve higher drying capacities and feature all of the latest energy efficient technologies.”

With new systems, you can see and control what your dryer is doing from a phone or tablet. In many cases it’s not too late to install a dryer system on-farm, if you’re interested, manufacturers just need about three weeks to get it on your farm.