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Estimate Your Cost of Drying Corn (Sep 28, 2011)
Estimate Your Cost of Drying Corn

By Andrew Frankenfield
Montgomery County Extension

I don’t need to tell you that this has been a challenging year to grow a corn crop. This year’s growing season consisted of wet spring, a hot and dry midsummer to a extremely wet late summer. Now we are faced with trying to get high-valued questionable crop off of saturated fields. As weather conditions improve next week (hopefully!) do not delay harvest. Agronomists generally recommend that harvesting corn for dry grain storage should begin at about 23 to 25% grain moisture. Allowing corn to field dry below 20%, risks yield losses from stalk lodging, ear rots, and insect feeding damage.

Growers this year should be prepared for stalk lodging (associated with drought stress and wind damage) that may slow harvest and contribute to yield losses. The loss of one “normal” sized ear per 100 feet of row translates into a loss of more than one bushel/acre. In fact, an average harvest loss of 2 kernels per square foot is about 1 bu/acre! According to an OSU ag engineering study, most harvest losses occur at the gathering unit with 80% of the machine loss caused by corn never getting into the combine.

Producers should have an idea how much drying their corn will cost when they make drying and marketing decisions. Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer, provides the following drying cost estimates and advice to assist producers in making those decisions:

As a rule of thumb you can estimate high-temperature drying energy costs per bushel per point of moisture removed by multiplying the propane price per gallon by 0.022. For example, the cost of using $1.90–per–gallon propane is 4.2 cents per bushel per point of moisture ($1.90 per gallon x 0.022).

Determine the estimated energy cost to dry corn per bushel by multiplying the cost per point of moisture removed by the points removed. The energy cost per bushel to dry corn from 25 percent to 15 percent (10 points) is 42 cents per bushel (10 points x 4.2 cents per bushel per point of moisture). Total drying costs are higher since they include both energy costs and the fixed or capital costs.

“Drying costs are affected by many variables, so these numbers should be considered as estimates,” Hellevang says. “Accurate records of fuel and other energy costs, as well as the amount of corn dried, including initial and final moisture contents, enable drying management.”

The NDSU Extension Service has more detailed information on corn drying and storage at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension-aben/documents/Corn_Drying_and_Storage_Tips_for_2011.pdf

Microsoft Excel spreadsheets on grain storage and drying are available from the University of Arkansas website http://www.aragriculture.org/storage_drying/default.htm. This spreadsheet http://www.aragriculture.org/storage_drying/corn_drying_storage_pass_dryer.xlsx will help you determine your cost of drying and storage by factoring in shrink, propane, electric and fixed costs by allowing you to input the fall harvest price and the projected grain price at a future sale date and give you a value which is your benefit or cost from drying and storing grain.

Source: Penn State University