Wet Wheat? Tips for Maximizing Quality Through Drying

Wet weather during harvest has forced farmers across Western Canada and the Northern U.S. to take the crop off the field at moisture levels that are much higher than ideal for storage.

While wheat is considered dry enough for long-term storage at around 13 percent moisture, in some cases, wheat has been harvested at moisture levels above 20 percent.

For wheat that’s very wet, basic aeration or in-bin air drying will not dry it down quickly enough, explains Ken Hellevang, an agricultural engineer and grain-drying expert with the North Dakota State University Extension Service, in the interview below.

“Air-drying can only handle wheat up to about 17 or 18 percent moisture. If it’s wetter than that we’re likely going to see spoilage occur before we get it dry,” he says.

When drying wheat in a bin, the question of when fans should be turned on arises — should they only run during the day? At night? When outside temperature or humidity levels are within a certain range? Hellevang recommends only turning them off when it’s raining or foggy.

“We need to run the fan enough to make sure we get the grain dry. Typically that’s running the fan 24 hours a day. There’s a real temptation to just run the fan during daylight hours, but the problem is we end up with the drying time being twice as long,” he says.

Delaying seeding and the weather-related challenges during harvest also mean producers are drying more grain later in the year than normal.

“Most years we can get by without adding supplemental heat,” says Hellevang. “This year, if we continue to have high humidities and cool conditions, we may need to add some supplemental heat if we can.”

Related: Hot Demand for Grain Drying Equipment Causing Headaches

However, added heat can cause other problems — especially when running wheat through high-temperature dryers normally used for corn.

“We can damage the milling quality if we’re using excessive temperatures. The temperature we can use will depend on the moisture content and the dryer design, but typically we want to keep the kernel temperature well under 150 degrees (F),” he explains.

Listen to Ken Hellevang’s conversation with RealAg’s Kelvin Heppner:

If you can’t see the interview audio above, click here.