A Look Back - 30 Years Ago
Drying Seeds: Another Look / An Interview with Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Ag Engineer —
“Last fall you conducted a fairly extensive survey in which you queried dry operators, retailers and manufacturers about the incidence of crop dryer fires while drying sunflower. Could you summarize the gist of your findings?
“One of the things I did was to examine insurance claims for 1979 through 1981. I found that batch and recirculating batch dryers were more frequently involved in a fire with sunflower than were other types of dryers. However, it appears there are more batch than other types of dryers used on sunflower, so this might be expected. Most of the batch dryers in the insurance claims were recirculating batch, and nearly all the fires took place in the lower grain column, near the recirculating auger.
“In 33 of the cases with all types of dryers, the insurance company identified ‘dust and debris’ as the cause of the fire. ‘High temperature’ was named as the culprit in 21 cases, and ‘the dryer was not drying’ in eight cases reported. Though high temperature was listed as the cause of fire in a number of cases, interestingly enough, in the reports listing a temperature-related cause, there were actually more fires in dryers operating at lower temperatures. Overdrying can take place at higher temperatures, but it is the overdrying — not the temperature — which causes problems.
“Among retailers of crop dryers, nonuniform drying and overdrying were most frequently cited as causes of fires. The one cause everyone agrees on is debris in the dryer. The importance of cleaning the dryer cannot be emphasized enough.”
They Dry Flowers With Coal / By Don Lilleboe — “The cost of propane has become a burr under many a farmer’s saddle. Anyone using it to fuel his crop dryer is painfully aware of the upward spiral of propane prices.
“But for northwestern North Dakota sunflower producers Norman Lee and Larry Grindy, the propane burr isn’t nearly as irritating as it used to be. They use coal furnaces to heat up their crop dryers, relying on propane strictly as a supplemental fuel if needed.
“Lee, of Donnybrook, N.D., and his son-in-law, Curt Engelhard, utilize a HeatAire furnace for their in-bin drying system. Theirs was the first of its type produced by the manufacturer, Neshem-Peterson, Inc., of nearby Berthold, which is now marketing the furnaces around the region.
“Getting the coal is not a big problem for Lee. He obtains it at a lignite strip mine, where last fall he purchased 25 tons of coal for slightly less than $11 a ton. Including transportation costs, he believes he had about $25 a ton invested in the coal, which he and Engelhard used to dry 12,000 bushels of wheat and most of their one million-plus pounds of sunflower seed. . . .
“Larry Grindy, who farms at Lignite, N.D., . . . operates two high-temperature column dryers and does a considerable amount of custom drying in addition to his own. Last fall he obtained a contract with the local elevator to dry all their sunflower seeds. ‘Once I had the contract, we started figuring up the propane bill, and it just looked overwhelming,’ he says. That’s when he sat down with ‘Doc’ Stevens, who operates a welding and machine shop in Lignite. The result of their collaboration was a ‘homemade’ coal furnace.
“. . . Grindy utilizes the heated air from around the outside of the exchanger tubes. There are six rows of six tubes, each 4.5 inches in diameter and 10 feet long. (The tubes are actually oilfield casings.) The fire chamber is constructed so that the air must travel along the bottom two rows, back along the middle two — and then back along the top two rows and out. . . .
“Last fall Grindy dried about three million pounds of sunflower seed. One dryer utilized heat from the coal furnace, while the other ran on propane. . . . He calculated that drying with the coal cost him about two cents a hundredweight, while drying seed with propane averaged out at 20 cents per hundredweight in fuel costs.”
Feedlot Silos Provide Storage for Sunflower / By Don Lilleboe — “Say you’ve closed down your feedlot operation and now have these huge silos sitting empty. What do you do with them?
“Vernon Triebold found himself in that situation back in 1979. And for the fourth year now, the Oriska, N.D., farmer’s answer has been simple and successful: fill them with sunflower seeds.
“For the first three years that they stored sunflower in two silos, Triebold and his sons utilized a high-temperature dryer to bring down the moisture prior to placing the seeds into storage. ‘We’d dry into a hopper bin, pull the slide on the bin and then blow the seeds up into the silo,’ he notes.
“Last fall, however, they opted for a different approach. The Triebolds harvested 2.25 million pounds of sunflower within five days — a volume with which their dryer could in no way keep pace. Rather than waiting for the dryer to catch up, they decided to transfer the seeds directly from the field into the two silos — and then rely solely on natural air drying to bring down the moisture content to an acceptable level. . . .
“The natural air drying has been performed by a 15 horsepower centrifugal fan on each side of the two silos. . . . Because of the large volume and extensive depth of the seeds in the silos and the resulting level of static pressure, Leroy Triebold (Vernon’s son) doesn’t feel they are close to obtaining the 0.5 cfm per bushel airflow rate that’s considered standard for natural air drying in the area. Yet as of early August — roughly 10 months from the time the seeds went into storage — they hadn’t experienced any crop deterioration in the seeds still in storage or in those which had already been hauled out to market.”
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