LONDON, Ohio -- A decades-old grain-drying technique is getting a renewed push in the face of today's higher energy costs.
Ohio State University agricultural engineers are reacquainting farmers with natural-air grain drying -- a low-energy drying system that boosts grain quality by increasing test weights and potentially cuts energy costs by as much as two-thirds, compared to more commonly used high temperature drying systems.
Robert Hansen, an Ohio State University agricultural engineer with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said that natural-air grain drying is a good option for farmers 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.
"Natural-air grain drying diminishes the need for fossil fuels and fits into certain farming situations," said Hansen. "Compared to using fuel as a source of heat to dry grain, the cost of energy stored in natural air is zero, so farmers are saving themselves money using this system."
Hansen will be at Ohio State University's Farm Science Review to educate farmers on the equipment and the costs of setting up a natural-air grain drying system. His exhibit will be incorporated into grain bin safety and renewable energy information, located on Friday Avenue across from the Firebaugh Building. Farm Science Review will be held Sept. 16-18 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.
A natural-air grain drying system involves transferring wet corn (20 percent to 24 percent) directly to bin storage that includes a perforated floor and letting natural-air drying fans dry the grain to an optimum14 percent to 16 percent moisture over a 25-30 day period. By comparison, high-temperature drying involves drying wet grain at 200-220 degrees Fahrenheit to 15-16 percent moisture, and transferring the hot grain to a bin for cooling and storage. Cooling can take anywhere from four hours to 12 hours depending on the type of high-temperature drying system used. High temperature drying is most suited for farmers growing corn for the harvest time marketplace.
Hansen said that several farmers across Ohio have been using natural-air grain drying for years with proven results. However, the majority of farmers still have not embraced the technology. According to a study conducted by Hansen and his colleagues, 80 percent of Ohio's corn growers dry at least part of their corn directly on their farm, yet less than 10 percent use natural-air grain drying.
"Farmers tend to shy away from the system because there are restrictions on the magnitude of incoming moisture content and management requirements are high, but it is well worth it in the long run," said Hansen. "Energy required and associated costs for natural-air grain drying are approximately one-third of that typically used for high temperature drying."
The process minimizes or avoids the use of propane (which has tripled in price from 75 cents to $2.25 a gallon in two years) while depending on free energy that is available from natural air. And while the quantity of electrical energy used for natural-air drying is higher, overall energy consumption is lower.
"With today's high fuel prices, a natural-air drying system becomes doubly valuable and worthwhile to look into," said Hansen.
For more information on natural-air grain drying, contact Robert Hansen at (330) 263-3860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Farm Science Review is sponsored by Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or participating agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 16-17 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 18. For more information, log on to http://fsr.osu.edu.