23% increase in corn acreage since 2000

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As we hopefully soon leave the snow behind and head towards planting season it is intriguing to look at how and where the amount of corn planted in the US has grown over the last number of years.

If we look only at the time since 2000, we have seen a substantial 23% increase, and while almost all corn producing states have seen some sort of growth, the size of the increase has varied a lot between states.

The big winners in percentage terms have been Arkansas (up 556%), North Dakota (up 361%) and Mississippi (up 244%). While Mississippi and Arkansas are relatively small producers (around 1,000,000 acres planted in each), North Dakota has become a major producer, now essentially planting the same acreage as Ohio (roughly 3,900,000 acres). It has added a massive 2.8 million acres in just 13 years, with most of that increase being quite recent. This is especially evident in this map which shows the change just from 2006 through to 2012.

In terms of the largest areas planted, Iowa continues to lead with 14 million acres (up14%) followed by Illinois with 12.2 million acres (up 9%) and Nebraska with 10.2 million acres (up 20%). Rounding up the top 6, which together represent about 60% of corn acreage planted are Minnesota (8.7 million), Indiana (6.1 million), and South Dakota (5.9 million).

This map gives a nice overview of the concentration of production, including the extension now up into North Dakota.

Understanding Dryer Master’s AM3

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The AM3 by Dryer Master is a state logic control system for a continuous flow dryer.

The system comes with a moisture sensor that provides real time moisture information to a micro PLC display unit. The controller uses this moisture information, in conjunction with user input set points, to make periodic adjustments to the dryer discharge rate.

The easiest way to understand how the AM3 control works is to actually watch it in action. So to demonstrate the features and functionality of the AM3 we have made a two part video quick guide. In part we go over basic operational information and in part two we show how the AM3 control operates in different situations.

How “Representative” is Your Moisture Sample?

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Taking a moisture sample when you are drying may seem like an easy process, and in some ways, it is. But it can also give you a false sense of having a very precise result.

Take the case of when you go to the dryer and take a grab sample. You take the sample back to the bench top tester and get a digital readout. Let us say this time the readout is 15.2 percent… So, what does this number mean?

It does not mean that all the grain coming out of the dryer is at 15.2 percent. One way to easily see this is to watch the continuous readout from the Dryer Master, which can move up and down a few tenths of a point over a few minutes.

Another way to see this is to take three samples three or four minutes apart and see if the three samples give you the same reading. In most cases, they will not be exactly the same. The questions begin: Which one is right, and which one should you be using to make any adjustments to your drying?

Small differences are actually a very normal part of sampling. It is all but impossible to get an exact reading that covers all the grain exiting the dryer. There is simply too much inherent variation. This also explains why you may see small differences with your readings and the Dryer Master readings when you are doing calibrations.

That brings us to one of the benefits of Dryer Master. The DM510 continually (6 times a second) samples the grain moisture at the outlet of the dryer, and at the inlet too, so you always have a good idea of the moisture levels going into and coming out of the dryer. The Dryer Master is also aware of these variations and takes them into account when making its control (discharge rate) adjustments.

Maximizing Drying Efficiency

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Fotosearch_k10159421One of the things that makes grain drying a challenge is the number of uncontrollable variables—such as different moistures, temperatures, wind speeds, and humidities. But there are a few things you may have some control over (at least some of the time) that can make your drying more efficient. In this post we are going to highlight two of them:

Longer dryer runs. The trend to larger dryers has meant that in some cases there is only enough product for short runs, so the dryer may only run for a couple of hours, then be turned off for a few hours. The problem is that the grain that is left in the dryer during the shutdown will tend to come out over dried. And of course, the more often there are shutdowns the more grain will come out over dried. Ideally, the goal should be to try for longer dryer runs when possible because a dryer is most efficient when running continuously at capacity.

Tempering. Many times on the graphs we download from our customers, we can see the clear difference in moisture variation between day time and night time operation.

During the day, incoming product may go straight into the dryer, but as the product is coming from different locations, the moisture may vary significantly from one truck load to the next. This variation in moisture makes drying to a constant target that much more of a challenge.

In contrast, the product being dried at night may have sat for a few hours in storage having some time to temper—or an opportunity to mix with other product. The result is more consistent moisture going into the dryer and an easier process to control.

Maintaining Dryer Efficiency: Part Two

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In the last blog post, we talked about how the buildup of fines and red dog can reduce dryer capacity for screen dryers. In this post, we want to continue the discussion and look for a way to tell if you are losing capacity.

Here is the most obvious way to see if you are losing capacity: You will see the moisture leaving the dryer increasing over time, requiring you to reduce the discharge speed to achieve the desired moisture target (the grain has to stay in the dryer longer for the same inlet moisture). The normal temptation here would be to increase the temperature to get the rate back up again, but this could have implications for quality.

For example, at the beginning of the week let’s say the average discharge rate was 30, and at the end of the week, the discharge rate has fallen to 24 because of buildup. This results in a 20 percent loss in throughput.

The reduction in capacity can also have an impact on electrical consumption—as you could see higher electrical usage from increased power usage by the fans, due to higher back pressure. This can negatively affect product quality as well, as the increase in air velocity contributes to faster moisture removal over a shorter period of time, possibly further stressing the kernels.

In order to get back to full capacity it is usually necessary to have a shutdown period while you wash down the upper portion of the dryer.

Obviously, it is not always possible to shutdown and clean when trying to keep up with the incoming product in the peak of the drying season, but as often happens there is a trade off from continuing to run with less than full capacity.

Also, remember that you will want to pay particular attention at the start of the season when high moisture product may require you to clean more frequently.

Maintaining Dryer Efficiency: Part One

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Grain StorageIt may be a bit hard to believe, but we have actually seen cases where a dryer has lost up to 50 percent of its capacity! We don’t want to see this happen to anyone so in this post, and the next one, we will talk a little bit about maintaining dryer efficiency.

Let’s start with the basics. Maintaining maximum air flow is the key to efficient performance. Because drying grain involves hot air passing through the grain, anything that reduces this air flow impacts performance.

With screen dryers, a great deal of moisture is expelled from the top few feet of the dryer. Much of the easy-to-dry product such as fines, broken kernels, chaff (red dog or bees wings) loses the bulk of its moisture here. These particles then tend to get pushed through the screen to the outside where they build up as a wet mess and stick to and plug the screens—thereby reducing air flow.

Over time, this wet section will steadily move further and further down the dryer as the screens in the higher portion above it plug up. This process gradually reduces the effective capacity of the dryer, and when drying capacity is lost, drying efficiency is reduced.

One way to slow this process is to clean the product ahead of drying. This will reduce the broken, fines, and red dog (bees wings) which tend to plug the screens.

Celebrating 30 Years of Dryer Master

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GrainWhen we say Dryer Master is the “premiere online moisture measurement and moisture control technology,” we mean it. From the beginning, we at Dryer Master have steadily improved and enhanced our technology to keep it on the leading edge. We’re proud to say we’ve now been serving customers for three decades—that’s right, this year, we’re turning the big 3-0.

We’re not shy about our age—in fact, we’re more than happy to talk about where we’ve come from and how we’ve grown since 1983. We began by controlling moisture in the drying process for corn, a notoriously difficult process to control. By helping our customers dry more product closer to target, we were able to help them experience real savings in dollars and quality. With this success, we expanded the application of our moisture measurement and control technology to other processes including manufactured food and feeds. This proved to be an important step for our business, and our capabilities—and it paid off.

As our focus has grown over the years we have continued with a tradition of innovation. And as we have learned more about the drying process, and as technology has evolved, our systems have evolved as well. We now have control and monitoring systems that can be integrated into dryer control panels or plant-wide systems or accessed via the web.

We’re currently working on the next generation of Dryer Masters, and you can be assured that we will be building in all of the latest technology to provide the kind of access and quality of control that have made Dryer Master the trusted name in drying control for 30 years. It’s safe to say we have an incredible future ahead of us, and we thank you, our customers, for making our 30th birthday a memorable and exciting one.