Expect Higher Drying Costs This Year

Expect Higher Drying Costs This Year

Energy expense may run above budget.

Farmers in central and southern Indiana were running corn even though they had to dry it until some switched to soybeans to take advantage of the good drying weather and mature bean fields last week. One reason some started early was because ears were dropping in fields that had been stressed by heat and drought. Here, ear dropage means ears falling to the ground, not just drooping over. Every year on the ground is a sizable loss.

Farmers in several parts of Indiana planted late, and although corn matured at a more rapid pace than would normally be expected given the planting date, it will still likely need drying at harvest. Last year hardly any drying was necessary. In 2009, two years ago, the season was so wet and cool that older dryers were overtaxed. Many new dryers and grain systems went in for 2010 and weren’t used. They will get tested for real this year.

The conditions are similar in parts of Ohio. Barry Ward, an Ohio State University Extension production business management leader, says that on top of lower yields and record high input costs for other inputs, many farmers will also get hit with a higher energy bill to dry corn this fall simply because they will need to remove more points of moisture than normal, and several more than a year ago.

Ward had budgeted $17 for drying costs in his 2011 corn production budget. Based on 150-bushel corn and removing several points of moisture, it could cost 40 cents per bushel to dry corn this fall, he says. He’s making his calculations for on-farm drying. If that’s the case, drying costs could be $63 per acre for that 150- bushel per acre crop, some $46 more than the $17 budgeted based upon an average fall.

Part of the problem is that despite a record 23-day streak of 90 degrees or higher temperatures in the central part of the Corn Belt during pollination and early grain-fill, corn was planted late enough that a good part of it was not yet mature on September 25. In fact, Ward estimates only 50% of Indiana’s crop reached black layer by that date, and only 19% of Ohio’s crop. He based those numbers on data from the National Ag Statistics Service. Counted in that 50% of fields that had reached maturity were a few fields that had already been harvested in Indiana.

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