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Get Accurate Moisture Content Measurements

NDSU’s grain-drying expert offers tips on how to obtain accurate corn moisture content measurements.

Obtaining accurate moisture content measurements is vital when drying corn, according to North Dakota State University grain-drying expert Ken Hellevang.

“Moisture meters will not provide accurate readings on corn coming from a high-temperature dryer,” he says. “The error will vary depending on the amount of moisture removed and the drying temperature, but the meter reading may be about 2 percent lower than true moisture.”

To determine the amount of error, check the moisture of a sample, place the sample in a closed container for about 12 hours and then check the moisture content again.

Moisture meter errors increase as corn moisture contents increase, so readings above 25 percent should be considered only estimates.

In addition, moisture meters are affected by grain temperature. If the meter does not measure the grain temperature and adjust the value automatically, then the adjustment must be done manually.

Even if the meter does it automatically, cool a sample in a sealed container to room temperature before measuring the moisture content. Then compare the moisture content of the room-temperature sample to the initial sample to verify that the adjustment is done accurately.

Moisture meters normally are not accurate when grain temperatures are below about 40 degrees. Place the corn sample in a plastic bag or other sealed container, warm it to room temperature and then measure the moisture content.

Moisture shrink and test weight are other measurements that are important to producers.

Moisture shrink is the reduction in weight as the grain is dried. The formula for calculating the percentage of moisture shrink is [(Mo-Mf)/(100-Mf)] x 100. In that formula, Mo is original moisture content and Mf is final moisture content. Thus, the moisture shrink of drying corn from 25 percent to 15 percent is [(25-15)/(100-15)] x 100, or 11.76 percent.

The moisture shrink factor is the reduction in weight as the grain is dried 1 percentage point. The formula to determine the moisture shrink factor is 100/(100 minus final moisture content). Therefore, the shrink factor of drying corn to 15.5 percent is 1.1834. The moisture shrink of drying corn from 20.5 percent to 15.5 percent would be 5 x 1.1834, or 5.92 percent.

Normally, corn test weight increases about 0.25 pound for each point of moisture removed during high-temperature drying. However, the increase in test weight is affected by the amount of mechanical damage during harvest and the gentleness of the drying.

Due to the high mechanical damage involved with harvesting, corn with 25 percent to 30 percent moisture levels and high drying temperatures used in 2008, frequently no increase in test weight occurred during drying. Little or no increase in test weight will occur on immature or frost-damaged corn.


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Ken Hellevang, (701) 231-7243, kenneth.hellevang@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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