New harvest paradigm with grain drying

10 Jan, 2016 01:00 AM
Having seen what we can do with the grain drying system, it's changed our whole harvest dynamics

ON-farm grain storage is gaining traction throughout the WA Wheatbelt, but the focus for South Coast farmers may be on-farm grain drying.

It's a tantalising thought given the almost overnight success of Jerramungup farmers Rex Parsons and his son Trent, who have set up a grain drying complex that has wiped 10 days off their 6000 hectare harvesting schedule of canola, lupins, barley and wheat.

Sums have yet to be done on profit gain but less downgraded grain indicates there will be an upside to gross margins.

Rex and Trent finished harvest last week and already are planning for the 2016 harvest.

"Having seen what we can do with the grain drying system, it's changed our whole harvest dynamics," Rex said.

"We'll now aim to start harvest earlier next year to preserve the quality of grain and that might mean going into barley at 18 per cent moisture and if we can thresh it we'll take it off."

It could introduce a new paradigm for harvesting grain throughout the South Coast, which is renowned for fickle weather conditions in November and December – harvest delays of more than a week are common and some days headers can be sitting idle until 2pm before crop moisture is at an acceptable level to crank up the header.

Rex had dabbled with grain driers for many years but it became a sharper focus for him when floods hit the property in 2011.

"We couldn't harvest because the grain was too moist and we finished harvest well into January," he said.

"Last year we resurrected an old drier sitting in the shed and got it going and we chipped away but it was too slow to meet our demands.

"That was when we decided to do it better."

In concert with Trent, plans were drawn up working on a system that accommodated stored grain and truck loads direct from the paddock.

Rex contacted Queensland-based English company Alvan Blanch about its grain drier range and finalised his model choice with the company's Asia Pacific export sales representative Jim Duncan.

"I said to Jim that what I wanted had to be user-friendly," Rex said.

"Everything in our plans was geared that way for ease of operation and safety."

The result is a complex that is stunningly simple and efficient.

It could be a template for any on-farm grain drying operation.

Rex and Trent dug trenches for underground drainage, conveyors and cabling, erected conveyor and elevator housing, connected transfer elevators from two holding silos to the grain drier then connected an outflow elevator and incline conveyor from the grain drier to a 350 tonne storage silo.

The pair and staff also did most of the concrete work, including pads for the silos and for the drive-over grid.

They also installed "bin full" sensors at the top of the elevator housing and a manual control flap to divert grain from one silo to its neighbouring silo.

The controller for the automated system is housed in a specially-built control room adjacent to the drier, big enough to accommodate staff and a Sophia mini-Infratec grain analyser.

Rex already has decided that for next harvest he will buy moisture meters for in-paddock testing instead of taking samples to the control room.

"Once we hit over 13pc we know we can cart straight to the drier," he said.

Trent said the Alvan Blanch drier was taking moisture levels from wheat and barley between 14.5pc and 15pc on to 12.5pc at a rate of 25 tonnes an hour.

"The drier works automatically with minimal system checks and if something goes wrong, the drier is programmed to automatically shut down," Trent said.

"That means everything stops, including the elevators and conveyors."

With the drying complex, Trent said harvesting usually started about 8.30am regardless of moisture and late nights were common with a 10pm finish.

"A lot of morning starts will see moisture levels at 17.5pc and the preference is to store that grain in the bunker for a day or two to allow the moisture to equal out through the stack," he said.

"As moisture comes down, we have the flexibility to cart from the paddock and unload into an underground conveyor to dry the grain.

"Depending on conditions and what we want to do with the dried grain, a 50t road train can unload into the drier and re-load from the storage silo in about an hour.

"But the drier also gives us the flexibility to blend tonnages as required if we think we can make, say, Hard 2 or APW grades.

"We're really happy with the drier and the Scandia conveyors and elevators and basically it requires little maintenance attention.

"There's a handful of nipples that need to be greased once a year and the same goes for checking chain tension.

"Overall the system has given us a lot more options to customise our grain and we also use grain bags for storage when the deliveries to the drier get a bit tight, for example, when we're switching from barley to wheat.

"The bags will be processed through the drier after harvest."

Ken Wilson

Ken Wilson

is Farm Weekly's machinery writer


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Rusty...A shearing shed on a small place, might be used a week to five each year. 50 years down
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We farm at Beacon we had no rain last time .Since the 1st of Jan.we have recorded 45 mm ,6mm