FArM NEWS / FOrT DODgE, IOWA
FrIDAy, JAN. 31, 2014
2014 Corn Edition
Farmers weight the stover option By KAREN SCHWALLER firstname.lastname@example.org
SPENCER—The truth is, when it comes to deciding whether or not to harvest corn stover, there is no cookie-cutter approach to knowing whether it’s right for every producer. More than 60 curious grain and livestock producers gathered at the Clay County Regional Events CenKapil ter in Arora Spencer on Jan. 14 to hear officials from Iowa State University Extension talk about pros and cons of harvesting corn stover. Stover is Paul all aboveKassel ground plant material other than grain. The meeting was called because opportunities exist near the Emmetsburg area to support the biomass feedstock needs of a cellulosic ethanol plant. POETDSM’s Project Liberty cellulosic ethanol plant is expected to produce 25 million gallons of ethanol per year once its kicks into full production in 2014. “The whole purpose of harvesting corn stover is to allow corn farmers to be more profitable,” said Dr. David Ertl, technology commercialization manager for the Iowa Corn Growers Association. “We see corn stover harvesting as an opportunity to add profit to your operation, but it’s got to be done sustanedly.” Ertl said sustanedly means it’s good for soil quality and profitable to do. “Most of the concerns we hear from farmers are about soil quality,” he said. “With
-Farm News photo by Larry Kershner
STACKS OF LARGE square bales of corn stover are evident along Iowa Highway 17 from Webster City to Boone. The bales are for the Dupont Pioneer cellulosic ethanol plant under construction in Nevada. There are more than 300 bales in the foreground stack and more than 225 bales in the stack visible in the background.
“We see corn stover harvesting as an opportunity to add profit to your operation, but it’s got to be done sustanedly.” —Steve Erupt Iowa Corn Growers Association
-Farm News photo by Karen Schwaller
FARMERS LISTENED and shared ideas during the Jan. 14 stover meeting in Spencer held by POETDSM and Iowa State University. After hearing the pros and cons presented they were encouraged to determine the feasibility of harvesting corn stover residue from their fields. proper care and attention, you can make good use of corn stover.” Ertl said corn stover harvest isn’t for all soils. If a field has a 3 percent or more slope, no stover should be harvested. He said that with a corn-oncorn rotation and reduced
tillage, it can be a sustainable practice. Ertl said producers should consider the environmental impact, agronomic and soil quality factors, logistics, economics and benefits of harvesting corn residue. Environmental consider-
ations might include slope and water/wind erosion potential, tillage practices, soil type and cover crops. “It irks me when I read (in the media) that corn stover is considered an ag waste product,” said Ertl. “On my way here I was pleased to see how much stover has been left on the fields. “We all know the value it provides for erosion control.” Agronomic and soil quality considerations include residue management and tillage practices, rotation, nutrients removed and fertility requirements, impact on soil carbon and organic matter and compaction.
“Corn stover harvesting could mean more trips across the field during harvest,” Ertl said, “but it’s offset with fewer trips across the field for tillage.” Logistics considerations include harvesting techniques (raking, windrowing, chopping, baling); storage (moisture, cover, dry matter loss, spoilage); and handling and transportation. Economic considerations include understanding the full costs and impacts of the stover harvesting practice, such as equipment and capital, operating costs, nutrient replacement, and time and complexity. Ertl said the benefits include reduced residue to
manage, along with reduced tillage; improved seedbed conditions, additional income from corn acres, and support of a local company that is supporting agriculture. “It you’re looking for an answer on whether or do this or not, we can’t say,” said Ertl. “It could be a field-to-field decision to make. “This is a very new aspect of corn production and not all the answers are out there yet — there is still a lot of research being done.” Baling options Kapil Arora, a field agricultural engineer with ISU Extension, said for every ton of grain per acre there is also a ton of stover. Producing 25 million gallons of ethanol per year would require 335,000 tons of biomass per year—about 700,000 large bales of corn stover. One large bale equals 1,000 pounds, so a large bale would equal 40 gallons See STOVER, Page 7C
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