Grain drying has not been an issue for most cereal farmers up to this point. However, these circumstances might change over the days ahead as growers push to finish off the spring barley harvest.

Met Éireann is now predicting that low pressure near Ireland will bring showers and longer spells of rain throughout the weekend. Rain is likely, which will be heavy at times in some areas.

The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Northern Ireland has recently reviewed the costs of drying grain.

These steps were taken in the wake of fast-rising energy costs.

CAFRE review

According to the review work undertaken, it takes approximately 3L of gas to dry 1t of grain by 1%. Oil fired dryers are slightly less efficient and oil is currently more expensive than gas.

With current oil price on average £1.00/L (€1.17), this means a cost of £3.00 (€3.51) per 1% to dry grain.

Typically spring barley can come off the combine at 20% moisture. So it will cost £15.00 (€17.55) to dry the grain down to a 15% storage moisture level.

This is purely the drying cost and does not consider the cost of driving the dryer or the cost of getting grain into and away from the dryer.

Cost of drying grain

So, it is clear that drying grain – if required at any stage – will be a significant cost this year.

The weight loss associated with drying grain should also be taken into account.

In the example above, drying 1t of grain from 20% to 15% moisture, removes 58kg of water, leaving 942kg of grain. So, if grain is worth £260/t (€305) that equates to a drop in value of approximately £15.

The most accurate way to assess costs is to look back at fuel usage and drying records from last year, including the cost of driving the dryer and handling costs, as each system will be slightly different.

Other choices for storing grain are moist storage options, using either alkaline treatments, such as urea-based products or acid treatments such as propionic acid.

While these treatments may limit the markets, if you intend to sell grain, they are useful if you are feeding your own grain or selling farm to farm. They also provide some benefits in terms of feed value and do not reduce the weight of moist grain. 

However, alkaline products have also risen in price in line with urea fertilisers, while propionic acid has approximately doubled in price in the last two years due to supply shortages.