The objective of this study was to determine the effects of harvest time and drying techniques on the energy requirements and profitability of grain production, particularly corn (Zea mays). In most grain production scenarios, supplemental drying is required post-harvest to allow long-term storage of the crop. Traditional high-temperature, high airflow drying systems have been known to be an energy intensive and high cost process of grain production. However, advanced continuous flow drying systems have shown to be 30% or more energy efficient than systems produced in recent decades. In this study, harvesting times (early fall, mid-fall, late fall) were compared to quantify the effects of field losses as the fall progresses with the potentially reduced drying requirement as the crop undergoes natural drying in the field. A model was developed to investigate the energy and economics of drying, based on harvest period, dryer efficiency, field drydown, and field losses. A sensitivity analysis was completed that focused on the energy consumption of artificial drying based upon harvesting conditions, as well as economic factors of field drying and fuel cost. Preliminary results of the study have shown that the use of higher efficiency drying systems combined with moderately prompt harvest times generally provide the most profitable scenario, while delayed harvest times increase the likelihood of field loss, which are not typically offset by the reduced drying requirements.

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