Top 5 things to consider when selecting a new grain dryer

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Gary Woodruff, a grain conditioning applications manager for GSI, has five tips to help you select the right grain dryer for your farm:

1. Determine wet bin and dryer capacity correctly. Farmers often calculate how many bushels they harvest per hour, or the total number of bushels harvested per day divided by 24 hours. The drawback to that approach, Woodruff says, is that it’s difficult for a dryer to run consistently every day for 24 hours. Instead, he recommends basing it on the actual number of bushels expected to harvested and dried per season. Factor in some downtime, take a hard look at how many bushels will be raised and add the expected growth for the next five to 10 years. Then determine how many days your equipment will take to complete the harvest, and select a wet bin and dryer capacity that can accomplish that. “All dryer capacity ratings use wet bushels, and the USDA determines a bushel at 56 pounds, not a specific volume of grain,” Woodruff says. “The dryer will actually put out dry bushels which, depending on grain moisture, will reduce those wet bushel ratings 6% to 17%, from 5- to 15-point moisture removal.”

2. Increase dryer holding capacity. “One common misconception is that you can simply increase the amount of wet bin holding capacity to increase the operating capacity of the dryer,” Woodruff says. “But that’s a short-term answer that only helps until you catch up. It doesn’t actually change the capacity of the dryer at all.” A better solution, he says, is to add a larger-capacity dryer that holds more bushels. “If you have a larger holding capacity and you maintain optimum airflow, not too high and not too low, you will dry the most grain possible in a given time period with good grain quality and efficiency,” he explains. “It may cost a little more up front, but it is going to pay dividends every year after that.”

3. Choose the right type of dryer. There’s no easy answer to the question of which dryer is best for your farm, he says. “It depends on a number of factors that vary by farm. They include how many bushels will come through the system, if some bins are already in place and how much labor is available. These and any other factors need to be discussed and considered in the final decision. As a general guideline, if you need to dry up to a maximum of 100,000 bushels, an in-bin system, such as a low-temp stirrator or floor discharge bin, may do the job. Starting at around 75,000 and going up to 750,000 bushels, a portable stack or roof bin dryer, or modular tower, will be among the possibilities. For 750,000 or more bushels, larger equipment, such as a tower dryer, will be required.”

4. Focus on return on investment, not just cost. “Farmers often worry a lot about the initial investment, but it’s important to also pay attention to how efficient the dryer is. Will it enable you to get your harvest out of the field early to increase yield, and then get the grain dried in optimum time to protect grain quality and maximize market value? All of these things have to be looked at to figure the true cost benefit,” he says.

5. Make decisions for the long term. Grain dryers typically last 20 to 30 years. It is important to plan for growth. “The most recent estimates show that U.S. farms are increasing yields by 2% to 3% annually,” Woodruff says. “Ten years down the road, you may have 30% more corn, even if you don’t buy or rent any additional acres. So you need to make sure that buying a grain dryer is a long-term decision. Select one that will take care of your needs for a long enough period of time, which is usually not less than 10 years.”