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Planning for Grain Storage

August 10, 2022

The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), like many farm enterprises, is keeping an eye on the weather forecast for harvesting. Not only does warm dry weather leave field conditions better for working in, it also greatly affects grain moisture content. Even a few hours sunshine or a breeze in the morning to lift the dew can reduce moisture content by a few percent. 

This year, more than ever, this is critical, as fuel costs are significantly higher than previous years which drives up the cost of drying grain. Typically, it takes approximately 3 litres of gas to dry 1 tonne of grain by 1%. Oil fired dryers are slightly less efficient and oil is currently more expensive than gas. With current UK gas price on average £0.74 per litre (18th July 2022) – this means a cost of £2.22 per percent to dry grain. Typical Spring Barley harvest, where grain can come in at 20% moisture, will cost £11.10 to dry to 15% storage moisture. This is purely the drying cost and does not consider the cost of driving the dryer or the cost of getting grain into and away from the dryer. It is clear that drying grain may be a significant cost this year.

The weight loss associated with drying grain should also be taken into account. In the example above, drying 1 tonne of grain from 20% to 15% moisture, removes 58 kg of water, leaving 942 kg of grain. If grain is worth £260/tonne that equates to a drop in value of approximately £15.

The most accurate way to assess your own costs is to look back at your fuel usage and drying records from last year, including the cost of driving the dryer and handling costs, as each system will be slightly different.

Other choices for storing grain are moist storage options, using either alkaline treatments, such as urea-based products or acid treatments such as propionic acid. While these treatments may limit the markets, if you intend to sell grain, they are useful if you are feeding your own grain or selling farm to farm. They also provide some benefits in terms of feed value and do not reduce the weight of moist grain. Unfortunately, alkaline products have also risen in price in line with urea fertilisers, while propionic acid has approximately doubled in price in the last two years due to supply shortages. There is some availability for propionic acid with merchants, but they advise you to plan ahead and place orders in good time.

A calculator for drying cost and grain weight loss can be found here.