Harvesting Both Corn Grain and Stover in Adverse Weather
by Cole Gustafson, Thein Maung and David Ripplinger (North Dakota State University/Ethanol Producer Magazine) NDSU quantifies the cost and time involved in corn stover collection
…The research team at North Dakota State University in Fargo recently completed a Sun Grant study, sponsored jointly by the USDA and the U.S. DOE, that addresses the impact of limited fall harvest field time, the availability of new corn cob and stover harvesting machines, increased farm sizes, and alternative tillage practices. A large, mathematical program model of a North Dakota farm with 2,000 acres of 144-bushel-per-acre corn to harvest considers 1) corn grain harvest only, 2) simultaneous corn grain and stover, one-pass harvest, and 3) separate corn grain and stover, two-pass harvest options.
…The main decisions the farmer must make are the number of corn acres to plant and the size of combine to assure that most of the crop is harvested in a timely manner, given limited fall harvest days. By planting 2,000 acres of corn and investing in a 275 hp combine, the farmer nearly completes harvest, given average weather risks. With corn priced at $4 per bushel, he earns $382,338 net profit after all crop production expenses are deducted.
One-Pass Harvesting Collecting corn cobs with an additional machine attached to the combine presents the farmer with an additional decision. Collecting and selling cobs provides farmers with additional revenue. We assume they receive $55 per ton based on rates paid to producers who participated in corn cob collection projects in the Midwest. The downside of collecting cobs in a one-pass system is the risk of not harvesting all of the corn acres due to combining at reduced speed with limited fall harvest days.
…A frequent suggestion is for farmers to hire additional labor to drive the tractor/baler. Additional farm labor, however, is difficult to find in rural areas, especially in North Dakota. At present, the state has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Moreover, large tractors and new stover collection equipment is highly sophisticated and any new farm laborer would need extensive training and oversight, again burdening a farmer who is already busy. READ MORE