New grain-drying facility planned
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
Construction equipment moving dirt at an old Wenks Produce Company site south of Madison Farmers Elevator and workers burning debris from the demolition work are the start of a new grain-drying facility under construction this spring.|
Terry Wastweet, owner of American Edge Grain Inc. of Fargo, N.D., plans to have his pilot project completed by the time area farmers are harvesting corn from the fields. Wastweet wants to build six natural-air drying bins on the property that was formerly part of the Wenks poultry- and egg-processing business in Madison.
The grain-drying equipment that typically operates today at grain elevators and on individual farms heats grain to remove moisture by burning propane or natural gas. Wastweet plans to dry grain by blasting air under high pressure through it and remove the moisture with a process that's slower but also uses less energy.
"I think the best way to describe it is that we cure the grain instead of drying it," Wastweet said. "The natural-air process can provide a better-quality finished product without using a heating source.
``But it's a slower process. It takes us about two to three weeks to dry a (grain) bin that holds 30,000 bushels."
In comparison, Wastweet said a typical heated grain-drying system will only need a few hours to dry 30,000 bushels of corn.
According to Wastweet, the new Madison drying facility operating a half-dozen bins will only process a fraction of the amount dried by equipment operating at Madison Farmers Elevator. Although the new facility is a pilot project for his company, Wastweet said similar systems are in use on farms across the country.
"Right now we're a niche market, but we plan to be able to expand (the Madison facility)," Wastweet said.
The production of high-quality grain is the preferred end result of any grain-drying efforts. Proponents of the natural-air process believe that a well-managed system can produce a superior product for feeding or the commercial market.
Overdried grain can create excessive expenses and lead to poor quality and lost market value. The poor grain quality is noticeable through stress cracks and broken kernels. Typically, overdried grain is less beneficial as livestock feed, and farmers are hit with price discounts when it is sold.
In addition, Wastweet said that the benefits from the proposed Madison facility include the opportunity for farmers to harvest their cornfields seven to 10 days earlier than usual and the possibility "to avoid the long lines at the elevator" while transporting their grain.
According to Wastweet, area farmers have signed contracts to use the Madison facility. Steve Armour, American Edge Grain operations manager, and Terry Schultz, president of Mustang Seed in Madison, have held meetings with ag producers for the last several months. Armour said that the greatest benefit from the new facility centers on "more bushels available to the market with added value to the growers."
"We've supported American Edge to help get this project up and running," Schultz said. "There are good economic benefits available for farmers and the community through this facility."
Ag experts who have studied natural-air grain drying estimate that the process can use as little as 25 percent to 40 percent of the total energy used by high-temperature drying systems. Extension researchers from Ohio State University made that estimate after studying how a natural-air system had reduced the moisture in corn kernels from 25.5 percent to 15.5 percent.
"We think that this is a much more (environmentally) green system, and that's good for the environment," Wastweet said.
Wheat, soybeans and corn grains hold a certain moisture content and, for their proper storage, the grain is dried down to a proper moisture level to prevent spoilage and mold, which can prove toxic to humans and livestock.
Farmers can dry wheat and soybeans to safe levels in the field, but corn in the U.S. is typically harvested at about 25 percent moisture content and later dried to about 15 percent.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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