Following fall rains, farmers using more fuel to dry corn

Published 6:52 am Monday, November 16, 2009

Faint dusts and particles of corn filled the air Friday at the Dexter Elevator as corn pattered against the side of a basin that caught the warm corn as it fell through a crop dryer.

This is a more common sight this harvest, as area farmers are using more Liquified Patroleum to dry a wet corn crop following rains in September and October.

Randy Stephenson of Dexter Elevator said trucks from the elevator are delivering about 25,000 gallons of LP a day to area farmers.

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“We’re busy delivering LP to the farmers right now,” Stephenson said. “Everybody’s going through probably twice as much as they went through the last few years just because the wetness of the corn.”

Right now, Stephenson can dry about 350 bushels of corn in an hour with one dryer running, but he can also use a second dryer to increase that number to about 1,000 an hour.

Stephenson dried the corn at elevator at about 190 degrees, even though the corn usually dries between 210 to 220 degrees. Stephenson said the corn isn’t as mature as in other years and can burn easily.

The dryers at the Dexter Elevator use about 1,600 gallons of LP a day when both are operating, Stephenson said.

Currently, farmers pay anywhere from $54 to $81 an acre to dry corn, depending on the yield and quality of the corn, Stephenson said.

Three trucks are currently delivering LP from the Dexter Elevator: two full time and one part time.

“One truck would never keep up,” he said. “On these other years, one truck would usually keep up because you didn’t dump as much at each place. Now you’re dumping darn near a full load at each of these farmer’s places.”

In the past, a truck could deliver to three or four farmers before refilling, but this year the trucks often refill between stops, Stephenson said. However, a new 1,000 gallon truck is still able to go to multiple locations.

“It’s a little different year, but so far we’re keeping up,” he said.

Corn wasn’t the only crop affected, as soybeans were also dried at the elevator, which Stephenson said is uncommon. The beans came in at about 17 percent moisture, and they’re supposed to be about 13 percent moisture.

Since the need for LP has increased, there has been a shortage of LP, and some people are concerned about LP supply in the future.

Transport trucks that bring LP to the Dexter Elevator often wait in lines for up to eight hours to get LP from suppliers in Clear Lake, Iowa, and New Hampton, Iowa, Stephenson said.

“It’s good for the LP business, there’s no doubt about that,” Stephenson said.

One driver waited six hours in New Hampton to get a load of LP last week. The station was set to close at 1 a.m., and he got a load shortly before the station closed, otherwise he feared he’d have to wait until the station reopened in the morning, Stephenson said.

About 90,000 gallons of LP can be stored at the Dexter Elevator, which Stephenson said is enough to last about three days.

Despite the increased need and shortage of LP, Stephenson said the LP price has remained comparable with last year.

Even though farmers are harvesting late this year, most are happy with the yield and are calling this a strong corn crop, even though Stephenson said the corn is a little lighter than in past years.

“We’ve got good crop. It’s just wetter than normal,” he said.

Stephenson compared this year’s crops to what he saw in the 1970s. However, the hybrid varieties of corn are engineered to dry quickly, especially with recent dry weather.

Some corn has mild surface mold, but Stephenson said most of the mold burns off when the corn goes through the dryer.

Some farmers have reported more serious mold damage, raising concerns about food grade corn, but Stephenson said that would likely come out in drying, too.

Stephenson said many farmers could complete their harvest in the next few weeks if the weather cooperates. Light rain wouldn’t affect the harvest anymore, but heavy rains would, he said.