Among the seemingly endless list of decisions America’s farmers are forced to make each year, one big decision is whether it’s worth the trouble and cost of grain drying before selling it on the market. They also need to consider what's the most cost-effective way to draw down a yield’s moisture content.
For crops like corn, moisture content can play a significant role in the price per bushel producers receive from buyers, who commonly build moisture discounts into their purchasing contracts.
The dangers of selling “wet grain”
Selling wet grain “as is” can quickly eat into producers’ already razor-thin margins.
For example, contracting to sell corn with 20 percent moisture to a buyer assessing a 2 percent moisture discount for every point above 15 percent could take the market price from $3.25 per bushel down to $2.92 per bushel.
Why farmers choose propane for crop drying
Propane is the top choice for farmers who opt to dry their grain before releasing it to market, with roughly 80 percent of producers utilizing propane in their drying systems. Though there is expense involved with any large scale drying operation, the corn drying cost per bushel is generally less than the discounts assessed for wet grain.
In fact, the corn drying cost to remove 10 percent moisture is about 42 cents per bushel, while the same moisture level market discount would be 65 cents per bushel.
Discover your propane use by acreage, average yield and moisture level with this propane calculator.
More control over your harvesting timeline
Producers who dry their grain also have more control over the marketing of their crops compared to those who opt for field drying. While grains like corn can dry over time in the field, it’s a much slower process and subject to unpredictable weather patterns that could make the crop unharvestable or market forces that erode your operation’s profitability.
Propane is safe & reliable
In addition to the economic benefits, propane drying offers farmers a safe and reliable option for grain drying. It is a non-toxic fuel that is safe for employees, and because it releases relatively few emissions it is better for the environment than alternatives like diesel fuel. It’s also a high-octane fuel, delivering more than 91,000 BTUs of energy per gallon.
Unlike other refined petroleum fuels like gasoline, propane stores well and doesn’t degrade over time. And thanks to high domestic production of propane and robust distribution networks from companies like Ferrellgas, propane is always available when you need it.
Environmental factors that affect the price of propane
Like any commodity, propane is subject to price fluctuations that are driven by supply and demand. Typically, the cost of propane increases in the winter months, when demand is at its peak, and falls in the warmer weather of summer.
Additionally, areas that produce a lot of corn and experience a robust crop can drive seasonal demand for propane as more operators activate their grain drying systems.
To make sure you secure the best propane price, visit with your local Ferrellgas supplier.
How to efficiently dry corn & other grains
Because there’s a delicate balance between the cost of drying and the price per bushel, it’s important to extract as much efficiency as possible from your drying operation.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Efficient operators utilize the all-heat setting on the grain dryer, which speeds up the drying process and uses less energy. It’s also a best practice to ensure that you’re not wasting fuel drying crops that have an acceptable moisture content.
- Using a stacked dryer, grain inverter, or a tower dryer to keep the grain moving will provide more even heat.
- Precision heating that dries the grain evenly can reduce energy demand by as much as 50 percent, and can remove up to a pound of water with only 1,650 BTUs of energy.
- Other helpful drying protocols include pulling regular samples for testing, ensuring adequate airflow inside your drying operation, and regular maintenance and upkeep of your machinery.
Contact Ferrellgas to secure your propane for the season
Your operation faces a lot of unknowns, including some that you can influence and others are outside your control—such as drought, flooding, disease, regulations, and market conditions. Investing in a safe and efficient drying system is an investment you can make that will continue to pay dividends for decades. With a propane-powered drying system on your farm, you’ll have an affordable fuel at the ready to quickly, safely, and economically get the most value for your crop—and the hard work that you’ve put in to get it to the bin.
To make sure you get the most economic benefit from your grain drying operation, contact a Ferrellgas supplier to discuss off-season contracts and delivery.