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Spring grain drying tips for large bins PDF Print E-mail

Managing large grain bins–those with diameters of 36-48 feet and heights of 28-32 feet –may require adding drying capacity and increasing monitoring efforts.
In recent years there has been a trend toward larger bins than were used 20 years ago. Most of these bins are equipped with a single 30 hp centrifugal aeration fan, which likely doesn’t provide the drying capacity necessary.
With spring warm-up, farmers will want to quickly assess stored grain quality and begin drying efforts as necessary.
Drying Potential
While an airflow  of 0.2 cfm/bu is adequate for pushing temperature fronts through stored grain, most experts recommend an airlfow rate of at least 1.0 cfm/bu to dry grain.
A 30 hp fan will only produce about 0.25 cubic feet of airflow per minute per bushel of grain in a bin that’s 48 feet in diameter and filled to a depth of 31 feet.Adding a second 30 hp fan on a separate transition duct nearly doubles the airflow to 0.47 cfm/bu.     
A single 40 hp centrifugal fan will push 0.32 cfm/bu through the bin. Adding a second 40 hp fan and transition duct nearly doubles the airflow to 0.61 cfm and a third 40 hp fan and duct results in 0.85 cfm/bu. airflow.
Most experts recommend using at least 1.0 cfm/bu airflow for grain drying. Drying time is proportional to airflow.
Under constant temperature and relative humidity, it will take four times as long to dry grain with 0.25 cfm/bu airflow as it would at 1.0 cfm/bu airflow.
Over this extend period, some grain will dry much sooner than other grain in the bin, opening the door to increased losses due to fungal growth and deterioration.
For example, when drying with natural air and assuming an average air temperature of 50°F and average relative humidity of 50 percent, it would take about 8.3 days of continuous fan operation to dry a bin of corn with a starting moisture content of 17 percent (assuming 1.0 cfm/bu airflow). If the airflow is only 0.25 cfm/bu, it would take 33.2 days of continuous operation.
The concern with drying grain using very low rates of airflow is the time the grain in the upper part of the bin remains at a high moisture content. This grain will be subject to attack by fungal organisms before the drying front reaches it.
Monitor Bins Now
The first signs of heating will likely appear in grain next to the bin wall.
Soon average air temperatures will climb into the mid to upper 50s. Grain held in the bin above safe storage moisture content (15 percent for corn) is in danger of beginning to spoil.
Monitor stored grain twice a month for signs of heating. Air takes the path of least resistance through grain. There could be pockets of wetter grain buried in the grain mass.
The first symptoms of heating in the grain will likely appear next to the bin wall. Also look for heating at the top center of the bin.     
The air in the colder grain in the center of the bin sinks down, replacing the air rising next to the wall. Air in the head space of the bin is drawn into the grain in the center of the bin where it contacts the colder grain.
Moisture can condense out of the air onto the cold grain mass. Wetting and warming the grain creates ideal conditions for fungal growth which, in turn causes additional heating in the grain.
If you have a grain thermometer, take the temperature near the wall about every 20 feet around the outside a couple places near the middle.
If you are using a mercury thermometer, let the probe stay in place at least five minutes before taking each reading.
If there is more than a 10 degree difference in temperature between the highest and lowest readings in the bin, run the aeration fan long enough to push a temperature front through the entire grain mass.
The estimated time (hours) to push a temperature front through a bin is 15 divided by the airflow rate cfm/bu. If the airflow is 1.0 cfm/bu, it would take 15 hours. If the airflow is 0.25 cfm/bu, the estimated time is 15 /0.25 = 60 hours
If you don’t have a grain thermometer, turn on the aeration fan and lean into the access hatch or climb into the bin. Does the air hitting your face feel warmer than expected? Do you detect a musty odor? Does condensation form on the inside surface of the bin roof on a cold day? If you detect any of these symptoms, continue running the fan long enough to push a temperature front through the bin.     
If the warning signs are present and the bin is not equipped with a stirring system, pull some grain out of the bin and monitor the condition of the grain coming out of the auger. If you detect heating, run the aeration fans to cool the grain and to dry the grain if air properties allow. Level the grain surface if the remaining grain will be left in place.
Drying Cold Grain
Once you begin aeration to dry grain, run the fan continuously down to 15 percent  moisture.
Cold grain (less than 40°F) should be warmed in stages. Run a warming front through the bin when the outside air temperature is 10 to 12 degrees higher than the grain temperature.
Trying to warm grain in larger steps can result in moisture condensation onto the grain mass.         
Once you start aeration to finish drying the grain and the grain temperature is above 40°F, run the fan continuously until the drying front passes completely through the bin and the top of the bin is down to 15 percent moisture.
This is dry enough to nearly stop mold growth and cool enough to stop insect activity.
If planning to hold corn into summer it should be 14 percent and 60°F.