What is a Grain Auger?

C. Ausbrooks

A grain auger is device used in agriculture to transport grain. It consists of a solid shaft contained within a large tube, with flighting surrounding it. Flighting is a flat steel spiral, which is wielded into the center of the shaft. As the spiral turns in a counter-clockwise direction, the grain is pulled up, and pushed into the shaft. The grain is then deposited into a hopper, which uses gravity to deposit grain into storage bins, trucks, or grain wagons.

Barley, a type of grain.
Barley, a type of grain.

The grain auger was invented by Peter Pakosh, co-founder of the Versatile Tractor Company, and innovator in the field of agricultural machinery. The first prototype was created in 1945, but was ridiculed by his colleagues and other machine designers. Pakosh continued his work, and in 1953, began selling grain augers by the thousands. It quickly became the standard for all modern machines.

Augers are used by farmers on small and large farms to deposit harvested grain into trucks or bins.
Augers are used by farmers on small and large farms to deposit harvested grain into trucks or bins.

Grain augers are portable machines, making them easy to transport by way of the wheels attached to the bottom. They are used by farmers on small and large scale farms. They can be up to 60 feet (18 meters) long, and must be moved to their lowest position before moving. If the grain auger is raised while transporting, it could snag on power lines, and cause electrical shock.

The defining feature of any type of auger is its helical -- or spiral-like -- shape.
The defining feature of any type of auger is its helical -- or spiral-like -- shape.

Guards are placed on the intake end of some grain augers to prevent unwanted material from being pulled into the shaft. Machines that do not use these guards run the risk of contaminating the grain, or pulling in foreign material. Most local agricultural departments recommend the use of guards to prevent these problems. Guards are typically triangular in shape, and cover the intake, allowing only small grains to pass through.

Generally, a grain auger is only used for a small period of the year, when grain is ripe and ready for transport or storage. The National Agriculture Safety Database in the United States recommends yearly pre-season maintenance of the grain auger. This maintenance includes a safety inspection to ensure all parts are functional, lubrication of the machine with oil according to manufacturer directions, if necessary, and a test start-up and shut down.

Hydraulic grain augers have recently become available to consumers. These augers incorporate hydraulic power, and contain their own diesel power plant, and self-contained hydraulic system. They are advertised as being easier to use, transport, and clean. The first hydraulic grain auger was created by Bergen Industries, a farm machinery manufacturer, in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Screw pumps are based on a system similar to that of auger conveyors.
Screw pumps are based on a system similar to that of auger conveyors.

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Discussion Comments


My hubby is is a farmer, so I think I can help you out. The combine has an auger on it so that when its hopper is full, it can be swung out over the truck and the grain auger into the truck. Then the truck is taken to a silo or to a plant where it is dumped out a trap door in the back and lifted into a huge wash tub kind of thing, but I don't know the name.

The auger is down in the washtub thingy and carries the grain up the auger into the silo or bin. The auger has to carry it up to the top to dump it in. because if you were trying to get it in any other way, grain would come out as you opened any other door.

There is a hatch at the top of the silo that the farmer climb up and opens to accept grain. Why don't you look at some pictures on the internet? Look for farm magazines online, etc. It would show you pictures of the different steps, I'm sure.


@kentuckycat - Technically, I'm not sure there is a really a difference between a grain bin and silo. Personally, I think of silos as being skinny and having a rounded top and grain bins being shorter and wider. Grain bins can have different purposes. At large grain elevators where farmers go to sell their grain, they usually hold the grain until it can be loaded onto a train. On farms, there may be smaller bins that hold corn that is fed to pigs or other livestock.

One other type of auger that wasn't mentioned before is the grain bin auger. On some larger farms, there will be several grain bins that are all connected through a series of tubes. In these tubes are grain augers that can help move grain from bin to bin or separate grain into different bins as it is put into the system.

I am wondering if there are different grain auger capacities. How is the amount of processed grain even measured? I would assume it is something like bushels per minute or hour that can be transported from the bottom to the top. Does it all change depending on what grain is being carried?


This may be an odd question, but what exactly is a grain bin? I have lived in cities my whole life, and don't know very much at all about farms. I would have to assume it is something that holds the grain, but what do they look like, and how much grain can they hold? Are there different types? What is the difference between a grain bin and a silo?


@matthewc23 - I'm not positive about the cross contamination part. I wouldn't think that using two different types of grain would cause any major problems. I'm sure you would want to clean out the auger just to make sure grains weren't mixing, but I don't think would be pathogen issues.

As for the use, I can tell you about that. Even though no one in my family farmed, I did grow up in central Illinois where farming is a huge industry. There are a couple different types of augers that I have seen. I don't know if they have special names, but one of them is a long, narrow auguer that is used to take grain from a truck to a grain bin.

Most of the time it can connect directly to the truck, but I have seen grain auger hoppers, too, where the grain is dumped into a separate unit and then carried into the grain bin.

The other one is the one you described. These are connect to combines, which are the machines that cut and clean the seeds. Once the grain is separated from the rest of the plant, it gets put into a truck and carried away.


I think I understand what a grain auger is and how it works, but what exactly is the use for it? Where is the grain being transported to? I have seen videos from beer companies where they will drive down a field harvesting the barley, and it gets shot into a truck beside it to get taken away. Does this process use some type of grain auger?

Also, are there special grain augers for different types of grain, or can they be changed back and forth? Is there any sort of cross contamination that can happen if you use one type of grain in an auger and then use it with something else?

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