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The value of the corn residue on your fields might be more than agronomic: A market for corn stover to feed ethanol production is expected to develop in the foreseeable future.
Stover (stalks, leaves and cobs) has usually remained on the ground for its agronomic benefit, but James Hettenhaus, co-founder of an industrial biotechnology consulting firm, says the fibers and sugar contained in this residue could be fuel for growing markets.
The benefits depend on where you farm, your crop rotation, soil type and topography, just to name a few. “There’s no universal answer on whether a producer can economically harvest corn stover on his ground,” Hettenhaus says. “It’s a complicated question because there are so many production variables.”
Stover commercialization will be a balancing act for no-tillers, and the benefits can vary by area, field or even zones within a field. There are no simple answers, Hettenhaus notes. “It’s an easy question, but it’s a complicated answer. Corn stover commercialization is a whole new system,” he says.
“If producers are interested, they need to look at their individual situation, including how much residue they need for erosion control,” he says. In addition, producers can’t forget to figure in how much in nutrient and organic material they’re removing from the soil.
The bright spot is that producers can get paid, with margins jumping by $30 to $80 per acre, depending on the amount of residue removed. That includes replacing the nutrients lost from the residue.
No-tillers have a…