Grain and Soybean Drying on Georgia Farms (B 873) University of Georgia Extension Drying is one of the oldest methods of preserving food and feedstock. It is simply the removal of moisture from a product, usually by forcing dry air through the material. This publication provides in-depth instruction on how to dry grain and soybeans. 2017-04-19 14:11:27.68 2006-06-02 14:26:31.0 Grain and Soybean Drying on Georgia Farms | Publications | UGA Extension Skip to content

Grain and Soybean Drying on Georgia Farms (B 873)

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Paul E. Sumner and E. Jay Williams, Extension Engineers

Principles of Grain Drying

Drying is one of the oldest methods of preserving food and feedstock. It is simply the removal of moisture from a product, usually by forcing dry air through the material.

Air serves two basic functions in grain drying. First, the air supplies the necessary heat for moisture evapor-ation; second, the air serves as a carrier of the evaporated moisture. Both functions are essential regardless of the type drier you use. The amount of moisture that can be removed from grain depends on the moisture content of the grain, and the relative humidity and temperature of the drying air.

Air temperature determines to a large extent the total water-carrying capacity of the drying air. Hot air can hold more moisture than cold air. For example, a pound of air at 40 degrees F can hold only 40 grains of moisture (7,000 grains = 1 pound), while a pound of 80 degrees F air can hold 155 grains — almost a four-fold increase.

The temperature of the drying air also affects the dried grain quality. Grain to be fed or milled can be dried at 150 degrees F or higher, while grain for seed should not be heated above 110 degrees F or reduced germination occurs. High heat often cracks the seed coat leading to grain breakage in handling.

Relative humidity also plays an important part in the drying process. Air at 100 degrees F and 50 percent relative humidity can absorb 60 more grains of moisture per pound of air than it can at 75 percent humidity.

When grain is placed in a drier and air is forced through the grain, a drying zone is established at the point where the air enters the facility (Figure 1). The drying zone moves uniformly through the grain in the direction of air flow at a rate depending on the volume, temperature and relative humidity of the air and the moisture content of the grain.

Forcing air through deep layers of grain is more difficult and requires more fan capacity and horsepower than forcing air through thin layers of grain. The pressure built up by the fan due to the resistance of air flow through grain is called static pressure and is normally measured in inches of water. The pressure increases as grain depth and air flow rate increases. Grain such as wheat or grain sorghum has less void space than corn. Less void space for air to move through requires more static pressure.

Drying Methods

Layer-in-Bin Drying

Figure 1. Grain is dried from the point of air entryFigure 1. Grain is dried from the point of air entry, with the drying front moving in the direction of air flow. The wetter grain occurs where the air leaves the grain layer.

This method is frequently called layer drying; it involves drying deep layers of grain (3-6 feet deep) with low heat, usually less than 110 degrees F. When the first layer is dry, another layer is added on top of the first dry layer and the next layer is dried. When the second layer is dry, a third layer is added and dried. This process is continued until the bin is filled and dried. The filling process may require up to two weeks with up to three weeks required for the drying process. Fan requirements: medium (25 CFM/sq. ft. @ 2 inches static pressure). Heat requirements: low (90-110 degrees F).

Batch-in-Bin Drying

In this method a two to four foot layer of grain is placed in a drying bin. The layer (batch) is rapidly dried then cooled and removed. A new batch is then placed in the bin and the process repeated. Fan requirements: medium to high (40 CFM/sq. ft. @ 3 inches static pressure). Heat requirements: medium (120–140 degrees F.).

Batch Drying

Batch drying involves special drying equipment that holds a relatively thin layer of grain (1-2 feet).

Some models recirculate the grain during drying for uniform moisture removal. Grain is normally dried, cooled and then removed. Fan requirements: very high (50-100 CFM/sq. ft.). Heat requirements: medium high (160-180 degrees F).

Continuous Flow Drying

A thin layer of grain (⅔-1½ ft.) moves continuously through the drier, first through a drying section then a cooling section. Continuous loading and unloading is required. Fan requirements: very high (75-125 CFM/sq. ft.). Heat requirements: very high (180-200 degrees F).

Low Temperature Drying

Low temperature drying is similar to layer-in-bin drying but with less heat and extended drying time. The heater provides only 5–7 degrees heat rise. Drying time is normally 35-40 days depending upon air flow rate. The extended drying time limits this method to cold climates; cooler temperatures prevent spoilage during drying. The bin is normally filled to capacity in only a few days. This method is not recommended for Georgia conditions.

Moisture Levels for Safe Storage

Crops to be sold or used for seed should be dried to a safe storage level. The moisture content recommended for safe storage of various crops is in Table 1. This table assumes storage through the warm months with aeration to cool the grain during fall and winter to prevent moisture migration.

Table 1. Percent moisture content recommended for safe storage, assuming 12-month storage.
Crop North Georgia South Georgia
Shelled Corn 12 11
Soybeans 11 10
Wheat 12 11
Oats 12 11
Grain Sorghum 12 11

Seed crops should be dried at temperatures at or below 110 degrees F to prevent seed damage and reduction of germination.

Grain to be stored a short time and then marketed can be stored at higher moisture levels. The safe storage level depends on moisture content and temperature, as shown in Table 2. The time interval in days indicates the time required for the corn to drop one grade.

Storage time exceeding those given in Table 2 will lead to loss in corn quality and will result in a lowering of grade. Do not infer that corn within these limits will suffer no loss in quality.

Table 2. Safe storage time in days for corn at various temperatures and moisture.
Storage Air
Temperature ºF
Corn Moisture Content
15% 20% 25% 30%
Days
80 109 10.0 3.4 2.1
75 116 12.1 4.3 2.6
70 155 16.1 5.8 3.5
65 207 21.5 7.6 4.6
60 259 27.0 9.6 5.8
55 337 35.0 12.5 7.5
50 466 48.0 17.0 10.0
45 725 75.0 27.0 16.0
40 906 94.0 34.0 20.0

Other grains are similar to corn in storage time. For example, corn held at 24 percent moisture and 80 degrees F can be stored only four days before deteriorating to the next lower grade. If this 24 percent corn is held for two of the four days at these conditions, 50 percent of the allowed storage time will be consumed even if the crop is then dried and cooled.

The relationship between moisture and temperature as it affects the storage life of soybeans is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Storage time with respect to moisture and temperature for short-term soybean storage.Figure 2. Storage time with respect to moisture and temperature for short-term soybean storage.

Equilibrium Moisture Content

Grain can be dried in many areas (except along the coast) of our state using natural air if the drying layer is limited to 3 to 4 feet and a sufficient volume of air with the proper relative humidity and temperature is circu-lated through the grain. If, for example, corn is to be dried to 12 percent moisture, air must be circulated that will remove moisture from the corn rather than adding moisture to it. When the air circulating through the corn neither absorbs moisture nor adds moisture, the air and corn are said to be at the equilibrium moisture content.

Table 3 shows 12 percent moisture corn to be in equilibrium with air at 50 degrees F and 50 percent humidity. If the humidity increases to 60 percent and the air temperature remains at 50 degrees F, it is not possible to dry the corn below 13.3 percent. If the relative humidity dropped below 50 percent and remained at 50 degrees F, drying to 12 percent or below would be possible.

Table 3. Equilibrium moisture content of shelled corn at various relative humidity and air temperature.
Air
Temperature oF
Relative Humidity
30 34 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75
30 10.3 10.8 11.3 12.2 13.1 13.8 14.6 15.5 16.4 18.7
50 9.6 10.1 10.6 11.3 12.0 12.7 13.3 14.1 14.8 16.9
60 9.2 9.7 10.2 10.9 11.6 12.1 12.7 13.4 14.2 16.2
70 8.4 9.0 9.7 10.4 11.1 11.5 12.0 12.8 13.5 15.4
80 7.5 8.3 9.1 9.8 10.5 10.8 11.2 12.1 13.0 14.8

A small amount of heat raises the drying air temperature and reduces the humidity which increases the drying capability of the air. A 20 degrees F temperature rise reduces the relative humidity by 50 percent. For example, air at 60 degrees F and 70 percent relative humidity heated to 80 degrees F. (20 degrees F temperature rise) reduces the relative humidity to 35 percent (50 percent of the 70 percent). With shelled corn, the original air (60 degrees F and 70 percent humidity) would reach equilibrium at 14.2 percent, while the 80 degrees F and 35 percent relative humidity would reach equilibrium at 8.3 percent. This would result in more drying capability (Table 3). If the air were heated 10 degrees F (one half the 20 degrees F above), the relative humidity would drop only 25 percent, or one half the above value, to about 50 percent.

Equilibrium moisture content of soybeans is given in Table 4.

Table 4. Equilibrium moisture content of soybeans at various temperatures and humidity.
Air
Temperature (oF)
Relative Humidity (%)
50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90
30 8.9 9.8 10.8 12.1 13.2 15.1 17.1 20.1 22.9
40 8.7 9.6 10.5 11.8 13.0 14.9 16.8 19.7 22.5
50 8.5 9.4 10.2 11.5 12.8 14.7 16.5 19.3 22.1
60 8.3 9.2 10.0 11.3 12.6 14.5 16.3 19.0 21.7

Increasing air temperature increases the drying capability often making drying possible when it is not possible to dry grain with natural air.

Field drying can be costly in terms of field losses and weather hazard, but it is an alternative, and fuel savings are possible if one is willing to take the risk.

Air Temperature

Keep drying temperatures below 110 degrees F for seed, 140 degrees F for market corn and 200 degrees F for feed. Temperatures higher than 110 degrees F reduce germination, while exceeding 140 degrees F for market corn makes it difficult to separate the constituents of the corn such as sucrose and starch. Temperatures exceeding 200 degrees F also cause stress in the grain kernels, a condition that produces cracking and splitting and increases damage potential from insects.

Cool grain after drying; high temperatures can spoil the grain. To cool, turn off the heater and allow the fan to operate until the grain is cooled to within 10 degrees F of outside air. Some drying will occur during cooling and should be included in the desired drying time.

Higher air temperatures produce greater spread in moisture between top and bottom grain layers in bins. No more heat should be used in bin driers than necessary. Adjust the heat to dry the batch in the available time before spoilage. Stirrers are sometimes used in bins to allow uniform drying from bottom to top and allow the use of higher temperatures without excessively drying the bottom layer. Moving the grain after drying also aids in evenly spreading the moisture throughout the grain.

Bin Batch Drying

In the bin batch drying system, grain is dried and cooled in a layer usually fewer than 4 feet deep before being transferred into final storage. In operation, the fan and heater are turned on as soon as the floor of the drying bin is covered with grain. Additional grain is added and leveled throughout the day as harvesting progresses while the drying continues, usually in a 24 hour cycle.

Drying starts at the bottom of the grain bin where the drying air enters the grain (Figure 1). As the flow of air continues, drying progresses upward in the direction of air travel, which is from the bottom upward. As the drying air enters the grain, the air picks up moisture from the bottom layer and the air comes into equilibrium with the grain above this layer without picking up additional moisture from the layers above. Thus a drying zone moves up through the grain from the bottom upward. The rate at which this drying zone moves upward depends on the moisture content of the grain, the condition (temperature and humidity) of the air and volume of drying air. The greater the air flow, the faster drying progresses.

The depth of material to be dried in a batch-in-bin system should not exceed 4 feet, and a minimum air flow of 6 cubic feet of air per minute per bushel of grain to be dried should be maintained. Static air pressure will range from 1 to 1½ inches of water when drying shelled corn or beans, and from 1½ to 2½ inches when drying sorghum and small grains at a depth of 4 feet. Table 5 gives the capacity of different diameter bins for each foot of depth.

Table 5. Bin capacity data.
Bin Diameter
(Feet)
Bushels per
Foot of Depth
Floor Area
(Square Feet)
14 125 154
18 205 258
21 280 358
24 360 452
27 460 591
30 565 707
33 685 882
36 815 1,020

Level the grain after each load is placed in the drying bin for uniform drying. Grain distributors available for leveling grain will save considerable labor as well as distribute fine materials more evenly. Screen out fine material as soon as possible, since these materials encourage spoilage and slow drying by restricting air flow. This material can cause channeling if not uniformly distributed in the grain.

Match Drier to Harvesting Rate

In selecting drying equipment with capacity to meet the harvest rate, one must know the amount of moisture to be removed, the time allowed for drying, the volume of grain and type of grain, temperature allowable, air flow rate, heat required, fan motor size and the size of the drier or drying bin.

As an example, assume 2,700 bushels of soybeans at 20 percent moisture are to be dried to 12 percent in 20 hours in the fall of the year using a batch-in-bin drier with a maximum soybean depth of 4 feet and 110 degrees F drying air. What size bin is required? Note that in Table 5, a bin 33 feet in diameter will hold 685 bushels per foot of depth or 2,740 bushels when 4 feet deep, which is the bin size necessary in this example.

The weight of water per bushel of grain is shown in Table 6. To obtain the water loss of a bushel of grain or soybeans drying from 20 to 12 percent, take the difference in weight of these moisture contents.

Table 6. Pounds of water per bushel1 of grain or seed at different moisture-content percentages.2
Grain Moisture Content Amount of Water per Bushel
1 2 3 4
Soybeans, Wheat
(Dry matter per
Bu. = 51.6 lbs.)
Shelled Corn
(Dry matter per
Bu. = 47.3 lbs.)
Oats
(Dry matter per
Bu. = 27.6 lbs.
Grain Sorghum
(Dry matter per
Bu. = 48.2 lbs.)
Percent Pounds Pounds Pounds Pounds
35 27.8 25.4 14.8 26.0
30 22.1 20.2 11.8 20.6
28 20.1 18.4 10.7 18.7
26 18.2 16.6 9.7 16.9
24 16.4 14.9 8.7 15.2
22 14.6 13.3 7.8 13.6
20 12.9 11.8 6.9 12.0
18 11.4 10.4 6.0 10.6
16 9.8 9.0 5.2 9.2
14 8.4 7.7 4.5 7.8
12 7.0 6.5 3.8 6.6
10 5.8 5.3 3.1 5.4
8 4.5 4.1 2.3 4.9
1 Figured at following weights per bushel and moisture content:
Soybeans - 60 lbs. at 14 percent
Wheat - 60 lbs. at 14 percent
Shelled corn - 56 lbs. at 15.5 percent
Oats - 32 pounds at 14 percent
Grain sorghum - 56 lbs. at 14 percent
2 To determine pounds of grain required to make a bushel at any one moisture percentage listed, add the pounds of water given for that particular moisture content and the pounds of dry matter (shown at head of each column).

In the soybean example, the difference in weight of beans at 20 to 12 percent (Table 6) is (12.9 - 7.0) = 5.9 pounds of water per bushel to be removed. The total moisture removed per hour must be the total moisture removed (2700 bushels x 5.9 pounds per bushel in the example) divided by the time in hours, which is 20 in this case, yielding about 800 pounds per hour.

Air Volume Required for Moisture Removal

The amount of moisture removed by the drying air at various drying temperatures and humidity is given in Table 7.

Table 7. Moisture removal by air at various drying temperatures and humidities.
Temperature
of Air (oF)
Humidity of Air
(Percent)
Lbs. of Water Removed
per 1,000 CFM in 1 hr.
60 65 7
70 45 12
80 32 18
100 18 31
110 11 38
140 5.8 60
180 2.2 78
*Initial condition of air, 60oF and 65 percent humidity.

Air flowing at a rate of 1000 CFM and heated from an average design temperature of 60 degrees F and 65 percent humidity heated to 110 degrees F will remove 38 pounds of moisture per hour (Table 7). The air flow rate required to dry a given quantity of grain is given by the expression below where:

  • CFM = capacity of drying fan in cubic feet of air per minute
  • Q = pounds of moisture to be removed from wet grain in 1 hour
  • H = pounds of moisture removed each hour by 1000 CFM of drying air, Table 7
  • E = efficiency of drying air in removing moisture (0.75 for average fall condition)
CFM = (Q X 1,000) ÷ (E X H)

The efficiency of drying depends upon the efficiency of heat utilization, which drops as the outside temperature drops. For average design conditions of 60 degrees F and 65 percent relative humidity, the drying efficiency can be assumed to be 0.75 and would be typical for fall conditions in Georgia. If harvest is delayed into cold weather, efficiency could go to 0.6. In summer the drying efficiency may be as high as 0.85.

In the soybean example problem, Q = 800 pounds per hour as discussed earlier, E = 0.75, and H is 38 pounds (Table 7) when the drying air is 110 degrees F. So the air volume needed in this example is:

DFM = (800 X 1,000) &divi

Status and Revision History
Published on Jan 15, 2006
Re-published on Feb 23, 2009
Re-published on May 14, 2009
Reviewed on May 11, 2012
Reviewed on Apr 19, 2017