If Iowa and the rest of the Corn Belt want to stay in the biofuels game and should ethanol evolve into non-corn feedstocks, corn stover most likely will be the ticket, says the Des Moines Register. If the cobs, stalks and leaves left behind after corn harvest become the next big source for ethanol, the technology to pick up the stover will need some new technology.
To maintain their lead in ethanol production, Iowans must find an efficient, cost-effective way to harvest the tons of biomass left on fields.
"A farmer who bales hay can do this," Steve Petersen, end-use market manager for Monsanto, said as he guided a tractor pulling a baler over an Iowa cornfield that had been harvested two days earlier.
Behind Petersen's tractor, a baler collected the corn stover that had already been mechanically raked, formed the stover into square bales, then tied them and dumped them out the back.
"Not a lot different from baling hay, except that you need heavier-duty equipment," Petersen said. "The rake needs different teeth and the baler needs knives to chop the stalks."
Agribusiness giants Monsanto, ADM and Deere have put together a project to invent the wheel on how corn stover would be baled, stored and transported to end users such as ethanol plants.
ADM, which has processing and ethanol plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton, said in a statement that "the insights gained from this research will advance our understanding of the volume potential and economics of corn stover as a biomass feedstock for advanced biofuels. Biofuels remain the only widely available alternative transportation fuel available today."
The experiments in the field parallel plans to develop a cellulosic ethanol industry in Iowa to complement the state's 40 corn-fed plants.
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Source: Des Moines Register