The moisture content (%MC) of grain can have a massive impact on grain’s storability and sale value. If there’s too much moisture in your grain, it could spoil in storage. Too little, and you’re giving away dry product in your grain bushels. As noted in one research article from North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, “At $3.50 per bushel, there is a loss of 12 cents per bushel if wheat is marketed at 10.5 percent rather than 13.5 percent moisture [(60 – 57.99) x $3.50/bu divided by 60 lb/bu.].”
Traditionally, the best way to measure moisture in grain was to check the grain by its weight in an “oven” test. This test would work by using an oven, dehydrator, or microwave to remove all of the moisture from a pre-measured weight of grain. Once the grain was dried out, you would compare its dry weight to the “wet” weight to determine the moisture content. There are a couple of issues with this:
- Test Time. It can take a while for the oven dry test to complete—even with a microwave oven. This is because you have to repeat the drying process and reweigh the grain until the weight stops changing.
- Destruction of Grain Samples. Reducing the %MC of any agricultural product to zero can cause permanent damage, which results in waste. To get an accurate measurement of moisture content in your grain, you have to keep drying it until the weight stops changing—or as close to 0% as you can get.
During the time that you’re checking and re-checking the weight of the grain you’re drying, the moisture content of the grain in your field is changing. Also, you’ll be in the dark about the actual %MC of your grain harvest because you’ve only been able to test the smallest sample of it.
The Better Alternative
If testing by weight alone isn’t the best solution for testing moisture in grain, then what is?
One alternative to relying on grain weight to test for moisture is to use a specialized grain moisture meter to check the %MC of grain in the field, in the dehydrator, or in the silo at will.
The advantages of testing moisture content with a grain moisture meter include:
- Speed of Testing. Rather than having to wait for grain to dry to compare pre- and post-dry weights, you can simply throw grain into the testing cup and check it in seconds. This lets you take moisture measurements in the field without disrupting your harvest.
- Nondestructive Testing. Grains aren’t damaged by the moisture meter’s test method. This allows you to pull grain from different spots around your field and get an idea of the moisture conditions at each spot. This is useful for if you want to blend grains with different %MC values to bring them in line with your desired %MC value. It can also allow you to pre-sort your harvest for short or long term storage based on its initial moisture content at harvest time.
- On-the-Spot Verification at Time of Sale. With a handheld moisture meter for grain, you can verify the actual %MC of your grain bushels at the time of sale—which can help you during the price negotiation, so you aren’t giving away free dry product.
Basically, grain moisture meters can help you save time and prevent you from getting short-changed on your grain product sales. Given a large enough harvest of high-value grains, a grain-testing moisture meter could pay for itself in a single harvest or two.
However, not any moisture meter will do. It should be one specifically designed to test grain. Also, you’ll probably want to use a meter that can be adjusted to test for moisture in a variety of grains if you plan on rotating your crops. Some grain moisture meters can accurately check moisture in over 250 different species of grain!
Get a better, more profitable grain harvest by using a moisture meter for testing your grain today.