CORN: What a difference a year makes

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By Bryce Roberts

What a difference a year makes. Compare Kentucky’s drought damaged corn crop last year with the 2013 crop that is on track to be record-setting and wetter than average. To prepare, you should ready your handling equipment, dryers and storage bins well before harvest to minimize problems that can create unexpected delays.
We suggest you follow the grain stream and thoroughly clean all equipment from the receiving pit or auger all the way through the system to bin unloading augers or conveyors. Remove all old grain, trash and/or debris from nooks and crannies in conveyors, the dryer and storage bins. A wet-dry vacuum is preferred over a compressed air blower in hard-to-reach areas because it’s better to collect and dispose of the unwanted material rather than disperse it in the immediate area where it will attract birds, rodents and insects.
While cleaning, inspect all conveyors for excessive wear. Make sure drive assemblies and/or gear boxes are working well. It can take a day or two to thoroughly clean and inspect or repair all equipment in large facilities but the payoff is that incoming grain will be protected from possible contamination and subsequent spoilage, which could pay dividends during extended storage. Also, preventive maintenance ensures your equipment will be more dependable and efficient.
Along with the predicted large crop, the extended weather forecast shows less than ideal field drying conditions, which further indicates that many grain dryers will be put to the test this year. You should make sure they are in top condition before harvest begins because you’ll probably need them sooner and longer than in recent, normal-crop years. Most manufacturers provide a pre-harvest checklist for their equipment in the operator’s manual. Alternately, you may opt for your dealers to perform these checks this year to be sure it’s done by the book.
While several private and commercial operations have recently replaced their dryer, many haven’t been used with high moisture corn (above 25 percent) which takes longer to dry (reduces capacity) and can create a bottleneck in the harvest operation. Dryer operators should also expect to have a higher concentration of fines (small pieces of broken grain, dirt, chaff, and weed seeds) with high moisture corn, which can reduce airflow and delay drying further. Ideally, you’ll adjust combines to maximize cleaning and/or purchase a separate grain cleaner and use it to remove fines before they enter the dryer (first choice) or storage bin (second choice). Otherwise, you’ll need to remove fines from the dryer at least once a week and from the storage bin by coring after filling.
Before harvest, make sure you perform a general inspection of all electrical and/or gas connections. Disconnect power and open the service panel, junction boxes and covers on individual motor controls to look for insect nests that can create overheating, short-circuits or other problems. Likewise, check gas supply lines, fittings, connections and burner orifices in addition to test-firing the dryer to be sure the system is working well.
Information on harvesting, handling, drying and storing corn is provided in the extension publication on corn management in Kentucky (ID-139), available online at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id139/harvesting.pdf.
Feel free to contact me at your Spencer County Cooperative Extension Service at 477-2217 or you can email me at broberts@uky.edu. You can visit the Spencer County Extension Services’ website at www.spencerextension.com.
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