Although traditional basket-style grain dryers continue to be an important consideration for growers upgrading drying capabilities, farm-sized modular tower dryers increasingly are the dryer of choice, according to Becker and Cruzen. Sales of tower dryers have strengthened in part because they are 25 to 30% more efficient than traditional dryers, Becker says. Sales also have been spurred by USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) funding, which offers grants and guaranteed loans of up to 25% each for adoption of energy-efficient technologies. The program, which is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency, is scheduled to end in 2012.

Many larger operators stung by 2009’s wet harvest shifted to larger-capacity towers to continuously dry and cool grain and avoid in-bin cooling, Cruzen adds. “Dry-and-cool systems are much easier to manage because your corn is coming out relatively cool and there is less heat and humidity to remove after the grain leaves the dryer,” he says.

Regardless of dryer design, many buyers are opting for sophisticated dryer-monitoring packages with touch-screen controls and interfaces that allow dryers to be monitored via the Internet. Internet capability also allows support and service personnel to help diagnose dryer breakdowns from afar.