Managing Grain Drying and Hydration to Maximize Profits

Did you know?

You can use your grain bin drying system to:

  1. Improve harvest time management
  2. Maximize equipment usage
  3. Improve profits by increasing your grain weight and quality

Harvest Early and At Higher Moisture

The profitability of your grain farm operation depends on the precise management of all aspects of your grain crop. One primary consideration for growers in Western Canada is grain storage and the control of the moisture content of their on-farm grain storage. One way to optimize the short and busy harvest season is to plan your harvest schedule carefully and to give yourself leeway to harvest some portions of your crop earlier and at higher moisture contents. The ability to use your grain handling systems and grain bin aeration/dryers to dry down the crop further and preserve the grade and quality in storage can help you maximize the value out of every crop you produce in a given season. Moreover, it also spreads out your harvest operation over a more extended period giving you much needed extra time. Seed shattering due to an over-dried crop left standing in hot weather or conversely against high moisture damage like staining or mold due to heavy rain can be avoided by harvesting earlier.

By combining your crop early, you can take more control of your fall harvest by spreading out the workload. Moreover, you can preserve the grade and weight of your grain. No doubt, this is done more confidently when you know your grain management system can change the moisture content of your grain 2-3 percentage points either way.

To take advantage of earlier harvesting, you need to take a good look at your grain bin system for viability. If your current grain storage set-up is lacking proper bin drying methods then perhaps you should consider making changes in the future via your farm plan. Many operations don’t require a gas burner installed in every new bin purchased but if the grain bin can be designed to quickly add a burner in later years to create a “faster drying” bin on short notice then that is going to be very cost effective and increase the flexibility of your drying system in wet years. The future expansion of your cropped acreage is something that needs to be taken into consideration when planning your current bin purchases.

A significant consideration is also installing both moisture and temperature cables in all your bins so you can identify problem areas and deal with them quickly as they occur. Producers who have invested in grain bin monitoring equipment like Bin-Sense Live by Wall Grain can safely manage higher moisture crops like canola even in huge bins.
Early harvest in combination with grain bin drying capability can allow producers to harvest crops such as wheat, oats, and barley as high as 20% moisture and then quickly dry the crop down to 14% for safe long-term storage.

Dehydration and Rehydration – The Balancing Act!

Continually monitoring grain in grain storage bins is the only way for producers to confidently manage and optimize the quality and therefore the profitability of their crops. Installing grain bin monitoring cables can boost farm profits and minimize post-harvest losses due to damp spoiled grain or over dried crops that have lost volume, quality, and mass.

If you don’t know what is going on inside the grain bin then whatever aeration or drying settings you are using could be damaging your grain quality as well as costing you money for electricity. Continually running the fans is not cost-effective but it can also set up a cycle of dehydrating and rehydrating your grain that is just costly and destructive causing shrink losses from over-drying and freezing. You need to know precisely when the conditions are right to achieve your grain moisture targets. To do this, you need to understand equilibrium moisture content for the grain type in the bin and monitor your moisture and grain temperature as well as the ambient weather conditions to know when to run the aeration fans (refer to the chart below).

Grain storage isn’t only about grain drying – it can also be about grain hydration to improve grain that was over dried in the field or became over dried in the bin. Rehydrating grain that was over dry at harvest must be done quickly in the fall before ambient temperatures drop and the air has lost its moisture holding capacity. Cold air can potentially hold less moisture than warm air. Carefully running the fans when the ambient moisture is higher than the moisture in the grain can significantly improve grain hydration and can add weight/mass to the grain in the bin and that will mean you have more weight to sell in the end.

Rehydrating grain in the spring can be tricky but also achievable if the outside humidity and temperatures allow you to pass warm, moist air (over 80% moisture) over the grain gently increasing the heat and moisture in the grain mass without creating damp spots or uneven airflow.

Over-dried grain at the bottom of a bin can be rehydrated with careful management but attempting this without appropriate bin monitoring tools can be very risky. Also be aware that swelling grain can damage the integrity of your grain bins. Always ask for expert assistance when trying new techniques on your valuable stored commodities.

"When speaking to your sales rep, we learned a lot about the advantages of stiffened walls as well as how temperature monitoring and fan control can keep you from losing value on your grain."

Don Chapman (farmer)