May 12, 2004

While many farmers are still working to plant this year’s crop, now is also a good time to assess potential harvest, handling, drying and storage needs for fall.

Planning for an efficient harvest this fall requires attention to many details including matching the combine harvest rate to the hauling capacity and travel time of the grain cart and/or trucks; handling rate of the wet-grain conveyor, size of the holding tank, capacity of the grain dryer and associated handling equipment; and total storage capacity for different crops. The reward of spring planning prior to equipment purchase is an efficient fall harvest, said Sam McNeill, an agricultural engineer with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Whether a daily harvest goal is 3,000 or 15,000 bushels in a 10-hour period, general rules can be applied to correctly size system components such as hauling vehicles, wet grain conveyors, receiving pits and conveyors, holding bins/tanks, dryers, and/or surge tanks for dry grain to eliminate bottlenecks and keep the combines rolling, he said.

A computer program is available to quickly perform these calculations and many others related to possible bottlenecks in the harvesting, hauling, handling, drying and storage system. It is very versatile regardless of the size of an operation and is widely used to properly match different components in the system, simulate harvest activity, and predict equipment performance, McNeill said. It is particularly useful to producers who want to see how changes in their mix of equipment or harvest strategy will affect system performance.

A separate new spreadsheet is also available to determine bin capacity (in bushels) based on the diameter and grain height.

Farmers who are growing relatively few varieties of feed grade corn generally choose to build larger bins. In comparison, others who are interested in producing several different varieties with specific genetic traits may need several smaller bins to enable them to segregate their crops.

The program to assess harvest equipment and efficiency is free and available to grain farmers and crop managers in Kentucky through the UK Cooperative Extension Service. The spreadsheet to determine bin capacity is freely accessible on the UK Grain Storage homepage (



Editor: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Sam McNeill, 270-365-7541 ext. 213