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Damp, Tough Conditions – Tips for Drying Cereal Grains

Snow. On October 5. The October 6, 2016 crop report listed 80 per cent of the crop still remaining in the field. Most of the province received 10 mm of rainfall up to Oct. 3 – and it continued raining Oct. 4 until it turned to snow. Producers across the province were not optimistic about the outcome.

Field covered in snow

A harvest that started off with some nice weather has now experienced several rain delays and for what is left out there, it could be a grind. At least some of the crops are going to be lying down and wet, making harvest more difficult. Drying hours are fewer as daylight hours decrease as we approach the winter solstice. Luckily, there are some double-digit temperatures left in the forecast for us.

Grain stored at high moisture is at greater risk of harvest storage pests or fungal growth. The fungus (Penicillium verrucosum) that produces the mycotoxin ochratoxin A requires high moisture conditions. There is no visual damage from this fungus or the mycotoxin. Grain stored at low temperature and low moisture will prevent development of this fungus and mycotoxin. Proper storage is one of the basic principles of the Keep it Clean campaign.

Weekly precipitation
Weekly precipitation, Sept 26 – Oct 3.
As reported in the Crop Report.
For producers dealing with tough or damp grain, grain dryers will likely be in demand. When there is extra demand for grain drying capacity, sometimes high-temperature, high-throughput dryers will be brought in. Each crop tolerates supplemental heat differently; be sure to follow recommended settings for the crop being dried.

Although it may be tempting to dry grain as fast as possible with high temperatures, going slowly with moderate temperatures is better for the grain and safer for you. Drying at too high of temperatures increases the risk of a fire. The Canadian Grain Commission suggests drying by less than six per cent moisture in one pass through a high speed dryer. Maximum safe drying guidelines are based on drying to less than one per cent below recommended moisture content.


Drying guidelines*

(Temperature in degrees Celsius)

Barley – seed or malt


45 C

(maltsters in Canada prefer that barley not be dried by the producer)

Barley – commercial use

55 C

Barley, Oats, Rye, Wheat – feed

80 to 100 C

Oats – seed

50 C

Oats – commercial use

Rye – commercial use

Wheat – seed

60 C

(one source suggests wheat for seed should not exceed 40 C)

Wheat – commercial use

65 C

(excessive heat can reduce the suitability of the wheat for bread making)

*Summarized from Canadian Grain Commission. Drying guidelines for other crops are available on the website.

Wheat can be damaged by air temperatures that are too high. Care should be taken when drying milling wheat to keep the grain temperature in any part of the dryer from exceeding 60 C. To achieve this, recommendations are that air temperatures in non-circulating batch dryers and cross-flow continuous dryers not exceed 60 C. Air temperature in recirculating batch dryers should not exceed 60 to 70 C. Parallel flow continuous dryers should not have air temperatures exceeding 70 C.

The Winter Wheat Production Manual, available online, provides some good suggestions for operating grain dryers.

Grain dryers are an excellent tool available to assist producers when harvest conditions are wet, damp and tough. Just like any other tool, following safe operating procedures and guidelines will keep everyone safe and result in a better product in the end.

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