Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture; Engineering


Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Michael D. Montross

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael P. Sama


This dissertation investigated issues surrounding grain harvest and transportation logistics. A discrete event simulation model of grain transportation from the field to an on-farm storage facility was developed to evaluate how truck and driver resource constraints impact material flow efficiency, resource utilization, and system throughput. Harvest rate and in-field transportation were represented as a stochastic entity generation process, and service times associated with various material handling steps were represented by a combination of deterministic times and statistical distributions. The model was applied to data collected for three distinct harvest scenarios (18 total days). The observed number of deliveries was within ± 2 standard deviations of the simulation mean for 15 of the 18 input conditions examined, and on a daily basis, the median error between the simulated and observed deliveries was -4.1%.

The model was expanded to simulate the whole harvest season and include temporary wet storage capacity and grain drying. Moisture content changes due to field dry down was modeled using weather data and grain equilibrium moisture content relationships and resulted in an RMSE of 0.73 pts. Dryer capacity and performance were accounted for by adjusting the specified dryer performance to the observed level of moisture removal and drying temperature. Dryer capacity was generally underpredicted, and large variations were found in the observed data. The expanded model matched the observed cumulative mass of grain delivered well and estimated the harvest would take one partial day longer than was observed.

Usefulness of the model to evaluate both costs and system performance was demonstrated by conducting a sensitivity analysis and examining system changes for a hypothetical operation. A dry year and a slow drying crop had the largest impact on the system’s operating and drying costs (12.7% decrease and 10.8% increase, respectively). The impact of reducing the drying temperature to maintain quality in drying white corn had no impact on the combined drying and operating cost, but harvest took six days longer. The reduced drying capacity at lower temperatures resulted in more field drying which counteracted the reduced drying efficiency and increased field time. The sensitivity analysis demonstrated varied benefits of increased drying and transportation capacity based on how often these systems created a bottleneck in the operation. For some combinations of longer transportation times and higher harvest rates, increasing hauling and drying capacity could shorten the harvest window by a week or more at an increase in costs of less than $12 ha-1.

An additional field study was conducted to examine corn harvest losses in Kentucky. Total losses for cooperator combines were found to be between 0.8%-2.4% of total yield (86 to 222 kg ha-1). On average, the combine head accounted for 66% of the measured losses, and the total losses were highly variable, with coefficients of variation ranging from 21.7% to 77.2%. Yield and harvest losses were monitored in a single field as the grain dried from 33.9% to 14.6%. There was no significant difference in the potential yield at any moisture level, and the observed yield and losses displayed little variation for moisture levels from 33.9% to 19.8%, with total losses less than 1% (82 to 130 kg dry matter ha-1). Large amounts of lodging occurred while the grain dried from 19.8% to 14.6%, which resulted in an 18.9% reduction in yield, and harvest losses in excess of 9%. Allowing the grain to field dry generally improved test weight and reduced mechanical damage, however, there was a trend of increased mold and other damage in prolonged field drying.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This work was funded by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Foundational Program [grant no. 2016-67022-25124] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture