Harvest is without a doubt the most hectic season, especially on big farms, where sheer volume compounds grain handling problems. Though workload increases with farm size, the time window to complete harvest does not. Setbacks such as labour shortage, harvest surge and inclement weather can be a major source of stress on farms of all sizes. New grain bin technology aims to alleviate such harvest pressures.
Over the last decade, grain drying has become more common on farms across the Prairies, but especially so in Alberta. It has been particularly necessary to maintain optimal quality in wet years such as 2018. That year, farmers spent an estimated $35 to $45 million on grain drying. However, little data has been compiled on efficiency in grain drying practices, until now.
Farmers love simplicity. The impulse to eliminate complication drives them to innovate and create solutions to various farm problems. As farms have grown larger and advancements in plant genetics have increased yields, progressively greater crop hauls have made on-farm grain handling more complex.
A three-year Team Alberta study on grain conditioning has just produced its second-year results. The research project will assess the efficiency of various grain drying systems used by a selection of Alberta farmers. Initially inspired by the potential impact of federal carbon taxation, it will also analyze how various methods and fuel types can diminish the bite it takes from the farm bottom line.
The first-year findings of Team Alberta’s three-year grain drying and conditioning study are in. Early results indicate energy efficiency depends on the setup and type of conditioning resources used, though final recommendations will not be made until the study is complete.
Low-tech air drying of grain may be a farming practice tailor made for these wet, financially constrained times. Multiple tough harvests have increased grain drying demands on Alberta farmers at a time when average farm income is down substantially. Can natural in-bin airdrying or natural aeration help Prairie farmers cope, and at an attractive price? Employing differing airflow levels, both involve blowing air into grain bins to dry harvested grain.
GrainsWest first spoke to Hames in mid-October when wet weather and record early snowfall had disrupted harvest across the province. It was clear then that a high percentage of Prairie grain would need to be dried. This got farmers talking about fair pricing for custom drying.