NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Harvesting, Drying, Storing Corn Could Be Challenging This Year

corn drying, corn harvesting, storing corn

Submitted by Craig Askim, Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Variability in moisture content and maturity will create corn drying and storage challenges this year, a North Dakota State University grain drying expert warns.

"There are variations within regions and even within fields due to availability of moisture," Extension Service agricultural engineer Ken Hellevang says. "Many fields have areas that are totally brown but also have areas that are still green and growing. In those green spots, test weights and moisture contents will be high, while in the brown spots, test weight will be lighter and moisture contents much lower."

Corn moisture variation in a field means that adjusting the combine for conditions will be difficult, and that may contribute to more fines in the corn. Also, more fines are produced when corn is wet because more aggressive shelling is required, which causes more kernel cracking and breaking.

In addition, immature corn contains more small and shriveled kernels. Fines cause storage problems because they spoil faster than whole kernels. Preferably, the corn should be cleaned before binning to remove fine material. Corn reaching maturity about Oct. 1 may be slow to dry due to cooler temperatures. Standing corn in the field may dry about 1.5 to 3 percentage points per week during October. If corn has a moisture content of 35 percent on Oct. 1, it probably will dry to only about 25 percent moisture on Nov. 1, assuming normal North Dakota climatic conditions.

If the moisture content varies in corn going into a high-temperature dryer, it also will vary coming out of the dryer, Hellevang says. For example, if the moisture ranges from 15 to 25 percent going into the dryer, it may range from 11 to 19 percent coming out.

Corn above 21 percent moisture should not be dried using natural-air and low- temperature drying to minimize corn spoilage during drying. The drying capacity is extremely poor at temperatures below 35 to 40 degrees. Adding heat does not permit drying wetter corn and only slightly increases drying speed. Turn fans off during extended rain, fog or snow to minimize the amount of moisture moved into the bin by the fans.

Using the maximum drying temperature that will not damage the corn increases the dryer capacity and reduces energy consumption of a high-temperature dryer. Be aware that excessively high drying temperatures may result in a lower final test weight and increased breakage susceptibility.

Grain segregates based on size and density as it flows into a bin or container.

Generally, the smaller and denser material will accumulate in the center and the larger material flows to the perimeter of the bin. The storage life of stressed low-test-weight corn is expected to be shorter than normal, so farmers need to be more diligent with drying and storage management. Corn with damage to the seed coat and immature corn has a shorter storage life than mature, good-quality corn.  Hellevang also recommends checking the stored grain more frequently and not putting immature or damaged corn in long-term storage.

For more information, do an Internet search for NDSU corn drying.

Source: Ken Hellevang, (701) 231-7243, kenneth.hellevang@ndsu.edu

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