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by Mahmood Ebadian, PDF, Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group, BioFuelNet project 10

Corn stover is an abundant source of lignocellulosic biomass in North America. According to the “Billion-Ton Study” conducted by US Department of Energy (DOE), nearly 100 million dry tons of corn stover are produced every year in the US Midwest. The large availability of corn stover has made this region a sweet spot for the development of cellulosic ethanol industry. Currently, there are three commercial-scale plants that will consume about one million dry tons of corn stover producing 75 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol once they reach their full production capacity.

Corn stover: feedstock of choice for cellulosic sugar production in Ontario

In Canada, the region that has the most potential to host  bio-processing industries is Ontario due to the availability of agricultural residues, mainly corn stover and cereal straw. Ontario is the largest producer of grain corn in Canada  about 65% of the total Canadian production (1.86 million acres). In addition, 0.93 million acres are under the cultivation of winter wheat. It is projected that 3.12 million tonnes of crop residues can be harvested in a sustainable fashion, mainly from grain corn and winter wheat (1).

Despite the availability of corn stover in Ontario, the harvest and collection of corn stover is not a common practice in the region. Corn fields are harvested from mid-October to mid-December leaving a short window for corn stover harvesting before winter starts. In addition, there is no established markets for corn stover compared to cereal straw and hay. Corn stover has been mainly used for animal bedding when there is a shortage of cereal straw in the region. However, corn stover has been considered as the primary feedstock for cellulosic sugar production in Sarnia (2).

Large Corn Stalk Baler Demo, Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show

The sustainable and cost-efficient harvest and collection of corn stover in commercial volumes is critical for the growth of bioeconomy in Ontario. To demonstrate the sustainable removal of corn stover using the existing harvest and collection agricultural equipment, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), La Coop federee and the Agromart Group organized the “Large Corn Stalk Baler Demo” during the Farm Show in Woodstock, September 15-17.

Equipment exhibitions (from left to right, a tractor from New Holland, rolling belt of a square baler from Kuhn, a square baler from John Deere)

“Large Corn Stalk Baler Demo”, Farm Show, Woodstock, September 15-17, 2015

Three pieces of equipment were used at the Demo including windrower, baler and loader:

1) Flail Windrower: shred and windrow corn stover

Corn stover left in the field after grain harvesting was first shredded and windrowed in one pass by the pull-type Hiniker Flail windrower. Once windrowed, the corn stover was ready to be baled.

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Hiniker Flail windrower

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Hiniker Flail windrower

Corn stover windrow

Corn stover windrow

2) Baler: densify corn stover into round and square bales

Six different pieces of baling equipment from different agricultural equipment manufacturers were used to bale windrows of corn stover including Vermeer, John Deere, New Holland, AGCO, KRONE and CLAAS.

Vermeer round baler

Vermeer round baler

New Holland square baler

New Holland square baler

 KRONE round baler

KRONE round baler

3) Loader: Pick and field-transport bales

A loader was used to pick bales and transport them to the edge of the field.

Loader to pick and transport bales to the edge of the field

Loader to pick and transport bales to the edge of the field

The Large Corn Stalk Baler Demo provided a good opportunity for farmers, biomass users and other stakeholders to watch and discuss the sustainable removal of corn stover in Ontario using the exiting harvest and collection equipment in the market. Both the farm show and the demo were great opportunities for me to further understand the agricultural practices and the advantages and challenges of developing a sustainable and cost-efficient corn stover supply chain in Ontario. The knowledge acquired during the trip will be a great asset to develop and complete our BioFuelNet project successfully. I would like to extend my gratitude to BioFuelNet for making this trip happen by financially supporting our travel to this event.

1 Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, 2012. Biomass crop residues availability for bio-processing in Ontario.

2 Duffy R., Marchand, L., 2013. Development of a business case for a cornstalks to bioprocessing venture.

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