Recent growing seasons have created needs for additional forage and
The key emphasis has been targeting corn stover in the mid-west. As crop yields grow, so does the available stover fraction. In many cases, harvesting a percentage (30-50 percent) can increase productivity in the cropping system. For this reason alone, it can be beneficial to livestock and crop producers to work on agreements for corn stover harvest in the rotation.
The key challenge with fall harvest is the stover moisture content. Dry stover is generally only harvested in the upper-mid west from Oct. 1- Dec. 1 and the harvest window may close quickly. Dry stover can be harvested with good quality product up to 25 percent moisture. Above those levels, we begin to see spoilage and fermentation of the
Harvesting wet corn stover is an excellent option to increase feed quality and palatability but does come with additional cost. Moisture levels can be 30-50 percent and
If the stover biomass is harvested and aggregated as feedstock for a cellulosic ethanol or biomass refinery operation, ash and dirt inclusion rate is important. Any biomass refinery technology would prefer the lowest possible levels of dirt in the incoming feedstock. Traditional methods of raking and mowing typically generate more than 10 percent ash content in the baled feedstock. New chopping and windrowing equipment designed for industrial scale harvesting, baling, and collection can achieve dirt and ash inclusion rates as low as 7 percent, with much of that being structural ash, part of the plant biomass. Some biomass refinery technologies capture the plant nutrients, such as potassium and phosphorus, which can be returned to the soil as a nutrient supplement. Here
Recent work with the New Holland “Corn Rower Head” has increased options for harvesting and storing corn stover. This YouTube video helps show how this new equipment harvests grain and
If you are considering corn stover to harvest to fill a gap in your feeding system or biomass harvest for ethanol production, be sure your equipment is ready for the field ahead of time so you can hit a fairly narrow harvest window. Remember, you should only plan to remove 30-50 percent of the corn stover from the field. Some residue needs to be left for wind/water erosion protection and to build or maintain soil organic matter levels.
Source: Kevin Gould, Michigan State University
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