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That’s why many no-tillers aren’t about to sell any of their valuable crop residues to ethanol plants — even if the price climbs to over $100 per ton. Once they do the math, they’ll recognize that losing the many benefits of residue is a losing proposition.
Since research indicates farmers who moldboard plow need to retain 3.4 tons of stalks per acre and no-tillers only need 2.3 tons of residue per acre to protect the soil, you’d think no-tillers would want to sell excess residue. Instead, no-tillers have always resisted the urge to remove residue.
Here’s our analysis for what a central Iowa no-tiller could lose by harvesting and selling only 1 ton per acre of corn residue to an ethanol producer:
The value of lost soil will be $4.93 per dry ton of corn residue.
Nitrogen loss is 13.6 pounds per ton, worth $9.85.
Phosphate loss of 3.6 pounds per ton, or $1.33 per ton.
Potash loss of 19.7 pounds per ton, worth $4.33 per ton.
Based on data from the 2013 Iowa State University custom rate survey, the costs for chopping, raking, baling and removing large bales from the field, and hauling bales 30 miles to an ethanol plant, would be $55.65 an acre.
This analysis shows an advantage of $76.09 per acre in favor of not selling residue. And it doesn’t include the other economic and environmental benefits you’ll lose by selling residue. Unfortunately, a few seed companies and university agronomists are advocating that…