Wheat School: Tips for dealing with tough grain in a cold, wet harvest

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The phone is ringing off the hook at PAMI. Some very difficult questions are being asked by farmers as a result of the late harvest and the cool, damp weather. There are no easy answers, of course, but luckily PAMI has done a lot of research over the years and although they can’t change the weather, they can provide you with some ‘best management practices’ when dealing with a cold, wet harvest.

RealAgriculture’s Saskatchewan field editor, Dale Leftwich, had a chance to talk to Joy Agnew, program manager with PAMI, about some of the questions, some of the answers, and some of the resources that are available to farmers to help them make their grain drying decisions. (story continues below...)

Now, about that phone ringing off the hook, Agnew says that she’s getting a ton of questions about how to deal with these temperatures, how to deal with tough grain, and what kind of risks to watch for.

Many farmers have added supplemental heating to fans. But having heat, and knowing what to do with it, are two different things. Agnew explains, “The most frequently asked question right now is all related to supplemental heat – how to do it and how to manage it. Some of the information that we are giving out is being careful to ensure you have enough air flow rate (cubic feet per minute, or cfm) when you are adding heat.”

Adding heat pulls the moisture out of the grain kernels but you need enough cfm to actually push the moisture out of the bin.

Once again, the old adage that ‘if a little is good more is better’ can go wrong here. “A lot of people are thinking that if hot air is good hotter air is even better, right? And that is definitely not the case with supplemental heating, ” Agnew says. It’s best to match that temperature increase with the actual air-movement output (cfm) you’re getting from your fan.

Agnew stresses that, while it is a lot of effort, turning grain frequently does make all the difference. “When you are adding heat, you’re really increasing that air’s capacity to dry, but it’s difficult for that drying front to move all the way through that (bin of) grain. So, you always over dry the bottom layers before that drying front goes through.

While a big job, it’s actually easier to turn the grain in a supplementary heated bin, than to try to even out the layers and dry all layers at the same time, she says.

More information on grain drying is available on the PAMI site.

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