MELVILLE, Sask. — A retired University of Regina professor who has publicly challenged conventional grain drying practices has a new message for farmers.
Ron Palmer has spurred much debate with his contention that binned grain can be dried more quickly by running aeration fans only at night. Now he contends he’s found further efficiencies.
He’s developed a new principle as he continues analyzing data collected by the Saskatchewan Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation: farmers should be using fans only when the temperature outside the bin is lower than the grain temperature.
The position is in stark contrast to the common practice of continuously operating fans throughout the day until grain is dry.
“This is a bit of a tweak. Last year, I would’ve said turn the fan on at night, off during the daytime, basically half of the time for the fan,” Palmer said in an interview after presenting his latest findings to producers at an IHARF-sponsored seminar in Melville, Sask.
“This year, I’m fine tuning that somewhat and saying we don’t even need that. It’s less than a quarter of the time that you actually have your fan on.”
His findings stem from projects that measured the temperature inside and outside of a grain bin, as well as grain temperature. They indicate that aeration fans add moisture to the bin during the day when temperatures are higher and more moisture is held in the air.
Palmer said continuously running fans will dry grain but puts one pound of water in for every three lb. taken out.
A strong correlation between colder temperatures and grain drying is now guiding Palmer’s message.
“People have got this in their heads that they need more fan because (they think) they have to dry the grain fast before it spoils,” he said.
“But there’s another component to safe storage, and that’s cold.”
He’s now telling producers to immediately turn on the fan once a bin is filled and then run it overnight, until 9 a.m., when his data shows moisture starts returning. Temperatures in a bin typically drop by 10 C over the first night, he added, which lowers the moisture content by 0.5 to 1.5 percent.
“That first day, you’re half done the job and then a couple more nights, you’re done. What you can do is once you’ve got the grain cold, you don’t have to be in a panic because your grain is safe,” he said.
“Now you do some cherry picking. I’m waiting for that really cold killer frost night and that’s when I turn the fan on, suck the temperature down, moisture comes out, drying the grain, cooling it — everything I want with a minimal amount of fan time.”
He said the principle is simple: run a fan only when the temperature outside is cooler than inside the bin.
“You don’t need a fancy controller. You don’t need thousands and thousands of dollars. The only thing you need is a temperature sensor in your grain. You could use a thermometer if you want,” he said.
“At no cost, you could actually try this out and implement it on your farm starting tomorrow.”
Palmer acknowledged that the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute challenges his findings, but he stands his ground.
He said he’s looking to publish re-search on the topic in a scientific journal, while future projects could look at storage of other crops or the influence of smaller fans.
In the meantime, he challenges skeptics to try his idea.
“I think it’s more important that the coffee shop talk has to produce the motivation for people to get out there and try it,” he said.