Market Matters Blog

Readers Report on Corn Moisture

Cheri Zagurski
By  Cheri Zagurski , DTN Managing Editor
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With this growing season's late planting in some areas, there's quite a bit of high-moisture corn needing to be dried down this fall.

According to a North Dakota State University Extension publication quoting engineer Kenneth Hellevang, corn can be stored through the winter at up to 23% moisture, with aeration.

Aeration keeps the corn cool in the bin as it dries down. Without aeration, moist corn begins to rot, which generates heat, which accelerates rot, and so on and so forth.

Producers should monitor the temperature of the corn in their bins and be prepared to take action if the temperature begins to increase, NDSU stated.

"Without aeration, it is risky to store it for more than a few days," according to NDSU. "The allowable storage time for corn at 20% moisture is about 90 days at 40 degrees, but is only 14 days at 70 degrees."

"Corn at moisture contents above about 26% will ensile, making it fit only for livestock feed. Corn at moisture contents under 22% should be OK as long as the corn temperature remains near or below 30 degrees."

"Corn above 21% moisture should not be dried using natural-air and low-temperature drying to minimize corn spoilage during drying. The drying capacity is extremely poor at temperatures below 35 to 40 degrees. Adding heat does not permit drying wetter corn and only slightly increases drying speed."

DTN Cash Grain Analyst Mary Kennedy has seen first hand what can happen when wet grain isn't monitored properly.

"The high cost of drying is cutting into farmers profits and the danger of that is it causes them to put corn away that is too wet. Even if the bin has sufficient fans, the danger for corn to spoil is much too real. I have seen elevators and farmers in the past who stored corn at 16.5% to 17% moisture open their bins in the spring and find an army of insects and corn that heated in the middle due to heavy fines settling. The money they may have saved by not drying it more turns into a bargain compared to the loss from spoilage."

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We asked readers to fill us in on what is happening in their area as far as corn moisture. Here's what they told us.

Justin Premo, Waupun, Wis.

WET! The first corn I planted was 24% to 28% moisture, the corn I planted in the wet holes is over 40%. Yields are average too. The corn my friend is running through his bin is not drying well or consistently. I have heard many of the local propane suppliers are out of their allotments, and were holding off on doing home deliveries unless they are under 15% full. We are 50% done with corn harvest. Fall tillage is a big question mark at this point; the recent cold spell has put a good crust on the soil, but we are looking at another wet weekend, and then back into below freezing high temps again next week. The rain/snow and falling temps last week caused some issues with freezing up sieves and augers in the combines.

Dave Tollefson, Starbuck, Minn.

Corn harvest around Starbuck, Minn., in Pope County is about done. Tillage is being attempted, but a couple days ago we had temps down to 6 above which froze the ground to a depth of several inches and put ice on even larger sloughs. The lakes, however, are not frozen over yet. The last couple of days have been temps in the middle and upper 40s, which is thawing out the soil again to some extent.

Propane availability was not affected much around here -- our Prairie Lakes Coop is associated with Cenex-Harvest States, and our local fuels guy was quite aggressive in calling all over the country to get supplies of LP.

My corn was in the upper teens mostly, some put into my bins for winter storage without drying at all. A lot of corn harvested last (probably planted later) was in the lower 20s and had to be dried.

Phil Carter, New Era, Mich.

I finally got started picking corn; it's been wet here and we had some snow which didn't help which plugged the sieves. Moisture has been running 20% to 25%. Too high to turn any profit but that's out of our control. Have done some custom hauling of dry corn; that man has had no problem getting propane. I got a call from our local mill this afternoon telling me to hold off bringing in corn until tomorrow; wet bin was full and getting backed up against the dryer. They are on a natural gas line so fuel is no problem. And as you might guess, another inch of rain is predicted for this weekend into Monday.

Underwood, N.D.

I started combining Wednesday; 20.1 moisture; another field 17.8; the next one 18.0. Then I got a rock in the head, so today I fix and run for parts. The temp is 14 at 5:30! Maybe I'll be done by turkey time. They just said highs in the mid-20s.

Eastern North Dakota

I think we're 80% done in Steele County. Moisture in the field is still 18.5% to 23.5%. There may be wetter stuff out there, I'm only dumping up to 23.0%. The farmer has binned corn all the way up to 23.0 moisture.

We are running two dryers as much as we can. The grain is drying down nicely. Test weight kind of sucks. We loaded two shuttles so far, and have been 53.5 pounds test weight on both. That doesn't really cut it.

I've run out of propane two times. I've since found two other suppliers and spend 30 minutes each day finding out who can be at my elevator first and taking those load(s). I was probably seven days ahead of everyone on the propane shortage though.

Everyone is ready for a giant Miller Lite when harvest is over.

Casselton, N.D.

"We are still taking in wet corn. There will be a lot of the crop off to the north of us this weekend. South of us towards Breckenridge there is still lots of corn left. They have just started in areas west of us where the crop was later as well.

"Propane has been an issue for these guys. It seemed to ease a bit after the price advanced +.50/gallon. We use natural gas here at the plant. We have had a few days where the gas company has curtailed our use for the corn dryer.

"Corn moisture has been all over the board. In this area mostly 18% to 25%. I have heard that some northwest of here has been in the 20% to 35% range. Most farmers who have dried their own corn want to core bins as there is way too much FM (foreign material) which will cause problems later.

"We have cored some of our bins and will take Thanksgiving week to just core bins. With the high moisture we have not been able to get the efficiency we should out of this dryer. It is a 10,000 BPH dryer doing about 6,000 BPH.

"With some getting done, we should see the propane situation ease a bit. I do expect to be drying corn the balance of the winter, though, as there is some wet corn in the bins with aeration. Space is a real problem. We have dumped 10 million to 11 million bushels since the first of October and we are now receiving what we can grind per day."

From an elevator that draws from western Wisconsin:

"Corn in the field 10% to 20% left. About 20%-25% in the field (moisture). They are running dryers. Not drying in the field. Haven't heard of any propane problems lately."

Bill and Karen Johnson, Avoca, Iowa

Corn here around Avoca, Iowa, was around 20% when we started harvest and just stayed that way. Some got down to 18% and a few points. We just got done with corn harvest last night (Wednesday night) in the dark and it is coming, or has come home, to a bin; or has or is being trucked to Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy at Council Bluffs where they would take it at 19%. The problem is SIRE was full and would only take corn from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. all this week, which was keeping harvest going slower than usual. Rain last week took four harvest days and the same a week before that. We even combined corn cold one day in afternoon snowfall that looked like a blizzard was coming.

We have two drying bins going with big centrifugal fans and gas, but so far it hasn't come down in moisture much. Most corn was still standing reasonably well (some damage for 35 to 45 mile per hour winds a couple days last week).

We have multiple pieces of machinery and equipment to bring home from 8 miles away. Cows and weaned calves got together when they broke through a gate several days ago, so we have to get the rest of the cows and calves in the yard and sort the half dozen we haven't been able to coax in just yet. Calves have been weaned about a month but we still have to work cows ... many, many outside tasks remain.

I'm trying to be positive but this year's harvest was just plain grueling -- exhausting for sure. Hope everyone stayed safe and well.


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