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4 ways to cut grain drying costs

The Brock Grain conditioning product manager offered tips during a recent talk.

Curt Arens

January 18, 2023

2 Min Read
hands holding grain
GETTING IT RIGHT: When margins are so narrow, producers want to make sure they aren’t wasting energy and money overdrying grain. Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images

In a time when every penny counts toward profitability, overdrying stored grain can be a real profit robber.

In fact, overdrying 100,000 bushels of corn by only 1% over what is necessary for safe storage could cost a producer about $8,700, said Grant Knobloch, Brock Grain conditioning product manager.

In his “10-minute tips” talk at Husker Harvest Days last fall, Knobloch said that farmers should think about why they dry and store grain in the first place.

“We condition grain so it can be stored safely to provide for more market opportunities,” he said. “Having a grain dryer allows harvest to be done sooner.”

But high input costs are worrisome to farmers, and overdrying grain may be one culprit contributing to those concerns.

4 ways

Here are four ways to cut costs:

1. Clean it up. To improve dryer efficiency, the dryer needs to be kept clean to improve operations and flame quality.

2. Higher temperatures. It’s also best to operate at increased temperatures, as long as the higher temperatures do not damage the grain. “If you are seeing discoloration or stress cracking in the grain, your temperature is too high,” Knobloch said.

3. Keep shrink down. Overdrying grain affects quality, Knobloch explained. “If you are drying all the way down to 13%, one in four kernels will be at risk of breaking,” he said. “If you dry down to 11%, two out of five kernels will be at risk. So, be sure you are drying grain only to the necessary moisture level based on your anticipated storage time, because overdrying increases shrink loss, which costs you money.”

4. Pressure heat, vacuum cool. So, what does it cost to dry a bushel of grain? Depending on the cost of LP, Knobloch said that it costs about 16.4 cents per bushel to dry down 5 percentage points of moisture, running 2,700 Btu per pound of water removed and drying 540 bushels per hour under a pressure heat, pressure cool system.

With a pressure heat, vacuum cool system — where heat from the cooling grain is cycled back into the drying process — fuel efficiency goes up considerably, allowing you to dry the same corn under the same conditions for much less, about 13.6 cents per bushel, Knobloch said.

“Running a grain dryer using a configuration for pressure heat, vacuum cool will increase dryer efficiency, increase drying capacity, while reducing cost per bushel compared to pressure heat, pressure cool,” he said.

Learn more about overdrying at blog.brockgrain.com.

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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