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40 Years Ago

Thursday, August 24, 2023
filed under: Historical

        Editor’s Note:  The Sunflower’s 1993 publishing schedule did not include either an?August or September issue.  So our regular ‘30 Years Ago’ page this month instead travels back 40 years, to the August/September 1983 issue of this magazine.
        Drying Seeds — Another Look / Interview with Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Ag Engineer —
        “ ‘Invisible shrink’ has received a fair amount of publicity in North Dakota this year.  Would you define the issue?
        “What’s really being referred to is handling loss.  With sunflower, you’re talking about the fine materials which are going to be blown away or somehow lost during the handling process.  And that’s going to vary from one elevator or one farm to the next, depending a lot on how the particular system is set up.
        “For example, if you’ve got a real tight, enclosed operation, your handling loss should be very little.  But if you have an operation where you pile the sunflower on the ground and try to scoop it into the auger, you’d expect the handling loss to be greater.
        “Another type of ‘invisible’ loss from an elevator’s standpoint would be if their moisture meter is not reading accurately.  I’ve heard elevator managers say they’ve been using the meter all year and are coming up short.  The problem could be the meter.
        “I’m in favor of elevators breaking out the charges for shrinking separately from the drying charges — and a number of them already do.  Determining shrinkage loss is strictly mathematical and simple.  With sunflower, for instance, if we start out at 20 percent and dry down to 10, we’re looking hat a shrinkage loss of 11.12 percent — or about 1.11 percent per point of moisture.
        “Remember that breaking out the shrink percentage does not mean that’s what your discount is going to be.  Essentially all we’re talking about is an itemized invoice for the farmer from the elevator.  If you have a three percent discount, a certain amount [is] for handling, some for shrinkage and some for drying costs.”
        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 heir crop dryers, relying on propane 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., has a different system; but, like Norman Lee, he espouses the advantages of drying with a coal furnace.  Grindy 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.
        “Unlike the furnace used by Lee and Engelhard, Grindy utilizes the heated air from around the OUTSIDE of the exchanger tubes.  There are six rows of six tubes, each 4.5 inches ins 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.  This process, according to Grindy, significantly increases the temperature of the air coming out of the furnace.
        “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.  Seeds for both dryers came out of the same hopper bin and were augered separately into each dryer.
        “Grindy, who is located only 10 miles from a mine, brought in about 30 tons of coal at roughly $15 a ton.  He calculated that drying with the coal out him about two cents a hundredweight, while drying seeds with propane averaged out at 20 cents per hundredweight in fuel costs.  ‘Things worked well with the coal furnace until we got down to about 15° outside,’ he recounts.  ‘Then we weren’t able to get enough coal through it.  That’s why the cost was so low; I just couldn’t burn enough coal.  I would have loved to have spent four cents a hundredweight, because my drying efficiency would have increased.’ ”
        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 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 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 accepted 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 doesn’t feel they are close to obtaining the 0.5 cfm per bushel airflow that’s considered standard for natural air drying.
        “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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