Could vehicles in your bays soon be driving in on not just corn but what is left on the field after harvest? Three companies are getting ready to find out just that.
Archer Daniels Midland Company, Deere & Company and Monsanto Company have agreed to collaborate on research to explore technologies and processes to turn crop residues into feed and bioenergy products.
The companies will work together to identify environmentally and economically sustainable methods for the harvest, storage and transport of corn stover -- the stalks, leaves and cobs of corn plants. Corn stover can be used in feed for animals, as biomass to generate steam and electricity or as a cellulosic feedstock for biofuel production.
By creating feed and energy products from crop byproducts, farmers can produce more products without farming more acres, and increase the value derived from each acre.
Stover is usually left on the field, where, in proper amounts, it helps reduce soil erosion and build up soil organic matter. A 170-bushel-per-acre corn crop, which was the average last year in Iowa, also produces about four dry tons of stover. The United States Department of Agriculture forecasts that in 2008, farmers will harvest 12.3 billion bushels of corn, resulting in approximately 290 million tons of stover.
In their work, the companies will address a number of complexities and challenges. For example, stover collection rates need to be adjusted on a field-by-field basis to ensure that sufficient stover is left on the soil to reduce erosion and maintain or improve soil quality for the next season's crop. Also, the amount of moisture in the stover at harvest can present challenges in transportation and storage. Monsanto, ADM and John Deere are committed to identifying processes and technologies that will create an economically, agronomically and environmentally sound value chain for corn stover.