Air-Drying Controls Energy Costs

A little-used grain-drying technique can help your grower-customers control energy costs, according to an Ohio State University agricultural engineer.

Robert Hansen is reacquainting growers with natural-air grain drying, a low-energy system that typically results in higher grain quality. In some circumstances, the technique has the potential to cut energy costs by as much as two-thirds, compared to more commonly used high-temperature drying systems.

“With today’s high fuel prices, a natural-air drying system becomes doubly valuable and well worth considering,” he says.

Hansen recently hosted a demonstration exhibit at Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review to educate growers on the equipment and the costs of setting up a natural-air grain drying system. Natural-air grain drying, he says, is a good option for growers looking to store corn on their farm long-term either for livestock feed or to compete in the marketplace as a shelled corn supplier to an ethanol plant.

A natural-air grain drying system involves transferring wet corn (20% to 24% moisture) directly to bin storage that includes a perforated floor and letting natural-air drying fans dry the grain to an optimum 14% to 16% moisture over a 25- to 30-day period. By comparison, high-temperature drying involves drying wet grain at 200-220 degrees Fahrenheit to 15% to 16% moisture, and transferring the hot grain to a bin for cooling and storage. Cooling can take 4 to 12 hours depending on the type of high-temperature drying system used. High-temperature drying is most suited for growers growing corn for the harvest time marketplace.

The majority of growers still have not embraced the technology. According to a study conducted by Hansen and his colleagues, 80% of Ohio’s corn growers dry at least part of their corn directly on their farm, yet less than 10% use natural-air grain drying.

Nevertheless, several Ohio growers have been using natural-air grain drying for years with proven results, says Hansen. The process minimizes or avoids the use of propane, and while the quantity of electrical energy used for natural-air drying is higher, overall energy consumption is lower, he says.

(Source: The Ohio State University)

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