Propane’s role in agriculture displayed at Farm Science Review

October 9, 2017 By    

This year’s Farm Science Review featured 4,000 product lines by 640 exhibitors.

More than 100,000 landowners, farmers and conservationists converged on the small town of London, Ohio, Sept. 19-21 for one of the biggest agricultural trade and education shows in the country: The Farm Science Review.

Sponsored by The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, the annual event — which celebrated its 55th show this year — showcases the latest agricultural innovations in research, practices and products.

One topic represented at this year’s event was the use of propane in the agriculture industry.

With hog barns to warm, grain to dry and new equipment running on propane, the use of propane on the farm is becoming a more common conversation.

Mathews Co. displayed a small-scale replica of its tower dryer model during the show.

One of the most well-known uses of propane on the farm is for grain drying – the practice of drying grain to prevent spoilage during storage.

Propane grain dryers have come a long way in becoming more energy-efficient, says Tony Barricella, regional sales manager for Mathews Co. So much so that organizations are starting to back development of more productive and efficient models.

Earlier this year, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) worked with Mathews Co. to redesign the fan, burner and control system in the company’s profile-style Legacy Series product line. According to PERC, the new dryer offers many of the same technological advances and operational efficiencies associated with a tower dryer, but by combining tower dryer elements with a profile-style dryer, the dryer is more efficient and has lower operating costs.

Currently, PERC is offering a $3,000 incentive for buyers who purchase Mathews’ Next Generation Legacy Series grain dryer.

Looking ahead to this year’s harvest, an increase in rain throughout the Northeast will play a role in the need for propane on the farm, Barricella says.

“Not necessarily Ohio, but for the rest of the Northeast we’ll see a late season, and we’re going to see wet grain and a lot of drying,” he adds. “It’s going to be high fuel usage in the rest of the Northeast.”

Both this year’s Farmer’s Almanac and The Weather Channel are predicting a cooler winter, and after back-to-back mild winters, propane retailers are stressing the importance of their customers to think ahead.

“Propane is not going to be as cheap as it was last year,” says Jodi Heitkamp, energy solutions adviser for Sunrise Cooperative. “Inventories are way down across the U.S., and we need people to be prepared for what is coming. Pricing will start increasing.”

Duncan Oil echoed this sentiment.

“Customers should not expect the low cost of last year,” says Tom Pabst, sales and marketing executive for Duncan Oil. “The best for customers to do is fill their tank as soon as possible and use marketer programs. They need to plan, plan, plan.”

The propane retailers anticipate high propane demand going into the harvest and winter and say they are prepared on the supply side.

Propane autogas was another topic of conversation at this year’s show.

Duncan Oil supplies autogas to municipalities, mostly for school buses. Lee Denny of Duncan Oil is hopeful for the future of autogas, saying it will grow in popularity in the coming years due to its benefits.

“It’s more affordable,” he says. “Plus, it’s cheaper and cleaner than diesel.”

While Duncan Oil was the only retailer at Farm Science Review that is currently supplying propane for autogas purposes, many said it is something they are keeping a close eye on.

“It’s something we’re learning about and keeping in touch with; it’s just not taking ahold yet,” says Heitkamp at Sunrise. “It is something our vice president is definitely watching, knowing that it is the next avenue for propane.”

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