The latest technology takes the strain out of grain drying and helps to boost quality.
In a bid to cut costs and improve grain quality, the Pears family at Manor Farm, Faldingworth, Lincolnshire, have invested in a new recirculating batch dryer to update an on-floor system.
Now with two seasons under its belt, Stuart Pears thinks the Magna 2000QF Auto grain dryer has done just that. “We still use the on-floor system for cooling, but the Magna has more than cut our costs in half. It was also simple to integrate into our sheds.”
He adds: “Previously, with just the on-floor system, grain moisture would often go back up over winter after drying.”
Cropping at Manor Farm consists of 155 hectares (380 acres) of wheat, 50ha (120 acres) of oilseed rape and sugar beet.
The electrically driven dryer is powered by the existing generator using an extra 20 metres (65ft) of cable and a new diesel tank piped underground fuels the burner. The shed was extended to house the dryer, with a holding bay to empty dry grain into a hopper built to load the dryer via a trailer or forklift.
It is fitted with a touch-screen control panel with menus which can speed up grain throughput by allowing changes to loading and discharge times; pre-heating of grain before loading finishes; and topping-up with more grain in very wet batches.
An SMS text messaging system can also alert operators when drying is nearing completion or the dryer needs attention.
Mr Pears says: “Either my operator Kevin or I run the dryer, and the text message system is useful as it means we do not have to stay in the yard – it will simply send a text to let you know it has finished the cycle and then shut itself down, so we can come back and refill it.”
He adds loading is quick: “It takes seven minutes to fill and takes the grain as quickly as you can put it in and then shuts off when it is full.”
He admits he was sceptical about the dryer’s automated functions initially but finds them useful now he is familiar with them. He adds the touch-screen panel is simple enough to operate.
The speed of drying has also impressed him. “It is a lot quicker than our previous system – it used to take all summer to get down from 17-14 per cent. The Magna can dry 20 tonnes in an hour and three quarters – cleaned, finished and ready to go, but the increased grain quality is the real bonus. The sample would be good enough for seed if that was what you wanted to dry, and it does not break up the grain like some dryers do.”
The Magna is fitted with a Skyvac dust extractor, which pipes all of dust and chaff into a trailer. Mr Pears says not only does this help to clean the grain, it keeps dust and dirt out of the yard, improving the working environment.
Harvest this year was one of the most straightforward for years, but Mr Pears points out even in favourable conditions the dryer showed its worth. “It means we can keep on top of the job with a small combine and can start earlier if necessary. It is well matched to the combine and dries at the same speed we are harvesting.”
He adds the efficiency of the system means an end to a ‘shed full of wet grain’ – higher moisture samples can be separated out and dried to the required level so it is all in the shed ready for sale when needed.
Running costs have also come down – Mr Pears calculates it has taken 3,500 litres of diesel for the burner and 2,500 litres for the generator to dry 1,600t of grain, including oilseed rape. The on-floor system used more than double that.
Batch dryers such as the Magna remove chaff, weed seeds and broken grains to improve the quality of the sample. They also clean and polish the grain and together these effects can lead to increased hectolitre weights, simply by putting a batch of grain through the dryer, says the manufacturer.
Mr Pears says: “In the difficult harvest last year, hectolitre weights struggled, but we got them back from low 60s to the 70s after the first load. With a penalty of £400 a load, the dryer has paid for itself in a season on that alone.”