Prime time harvest
Gary Porter farms about as far north as you can possibly farm and still be in the state of Missouri. The Mercer County farmer likes to get his corn harvest under way in September on an early schedule that would be more typical for a corn grower in the southern part of the state.
Part of the reason for Porter’s fast start to corn harvest is a new, state-of-the-art, on-farm grain handling system. It has some unique features. For example, the dryer is powered by natural gas, not propane. And a pneumatic system whisks corn into storage bins propelled by air, as opposed to being hoisted in a conventional grain leg.
It all adds up to an economical, energy-efficient drying and storage system that allows Porter to get into the field early and keep on harvesting in order to capture premiums that can be found in local markets.
“It seems like it happens every year,” he says. “I can get a lot better price for September corn than I can for October-November delivery. So if we can hit that earlier market and get our harvesting done at an earlier pace, it pays off.”
Porter plants 105-day corn hybrids and points out that weather often cooperates better for early harvest. In addition, local demand from Premium Standard Farms, an integrated pork operation, is strong for corn that can be delivered early. And one of Premium Standard’s delivery points is only eight miles from the Porter family headquarters.
“To get this corn out of the field early, dry it, and then load it out and haul it eight miles to market has just worked out sensational,” Porter says.
The Porter family almost decided against building their house on this parcel of land because a natural gas pipeline that supplies the town of Princeton runs right down the middle of the adjacent gravel road. “As it turns out, natural gas has been a real asset,” Porter says.
The dryer for the grain bin system operates on natural gas, allowing Porter to dry grain for about one-third the cost of using propane. “I never have to worry about running out of LP on the weekend or in the middle of the night,” he says. “Natural gas is supplied right here to the bins at all times.”
The pneumatic delivery system also was a big cost-saver. Porter went to southwest Missouri to observe a similar system that Kip Cullers installed on his farm. “I was skeptical of pneumatics, but Kip convinced me to try the system,” Porter says. “I like a grain leg, but they cost around $200,000. I built my entire four-bin system for what it would have cost me to add the grain leg.”
A 40-horsepower, three-phase motor blows the air into the pneumatic tube. Behind that is a device that meters the corn into the airflow. “It works great, and it is fast as well,” Porter observes.
The added efficiency of the new system allows him to harvest 7,500 acres of crops with only one combine. “I have a neighbor and a brother who also do some custom harvest work for me to help pull us through,” he says. “But it is very important that I keep the combine moving at all times.”
This article published in the September, 2011 edition of MISSOURI RURALIST.