Dual use: Residues offer income buffers
Judiciously harvested stover can provide dual benefits in livestock nutrition as well as in possible ethanol conversion
Published: Sep 8, 2012
Many Illinois corn growers will come up seriously short at the elevator this fall. But with proper cultivation, conservation, and utilization, what remains in the field someday could provide a crucial drought-year revenue buffer.
That’s according to Monsanto biofuels product manager Steve Peterson, whose research into potential use of corn stover as an ethanol feedstock has uncovered the unexpected benefits of field residues in feeding regimens.
A new University of Nebraska (U of N) report confirms Peterson’s conclusion that judiciously harvested stover can provide dual benefits in livestock nutrition as well as in possible ethanol conversion.
According to the U of N study, a pound of alkaline-treated stover can replace a half-pound of corn and a half-pound of hay.
That’s significant during a drought that has severely impacted cow-calf herds with little or no available pasture and is expected to boost grain prices for cattle feeders and dairy producers feeding heifers and dry cows.
“Treated corn stover is becoming a real mainstay for some of these (livestock producers),” Peterson told FarmWeek. “Hopefully, it will enable them to get through until we have a better harvest next year.
“As we see more and more acres of corn-on-corn, the removal of a sustainable amount of stover actually can be yield-beneficial.
“As we consider pathogens, things like Goss’s wilt -- everything that overwinters in stover -- we lower the chances of potential disease or infection if we remove a portion of that stover.”
The scientist anticipates potentially solid demand and thus economically justifiable per-ton prices for harvested stover, particularly in a season such as this. Amid limited hay availability, “even poor-quality hay is bringing extremely high prices,” Peterson pointed out.
For the livestock producer, he argues treated stover can compete economically with grain or hay as a part of rations but not all of the ration. Some cow-calf operations have “very effectively” adopted a 60 percent stover inclusion rate, Peterson said.
Livestock residue benefits have fueled university interest in previously biofuels-oriented research by companies including Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, and Deere and Co. and emerging cellulosic ethanol ventures.
At the same time, stover potential is driving new innovations across the industry, from New Holland’s Cornrower, a corn head attachment adapted for stover collection, to Mississippi Lime’s StoverCal, a feed grade calcium hydroxide treatment for stover and wheat straw.
“We’re pleasantly surprised by what the economics are driving,” Peterson said.
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