If USDA’s corn crop forecast holds true this year, farmers will produce not only 12.3 billion bushels of corn, but also 290 million tons of corn stover.
What if all those leftover stalks, leaves and cobs could be used to feed livestock, generate steam and electricity, and make cellulosic ethanol – in addition to enriching the soil and preventing erosion?
That is the goal of a new collaboration between Monsanto, John Deere and Archer Daniels Midland that was announced this week. The companies are planning to work together to identify environmentally and economically sustainable methods for the harvest, storage and transport of corn stover as well as ensure that sufficient stover is left on the soil to reduce erosion and maintain or improve soil quality for the next season’s crop. And they think they can do it with a combination of improved varieties that yield bigger and better plants in addition to more corn – new machinery that can get it off the ground – and new technologies to process and commercialize the product.
It’s kind of interesting that this announcement was made in a release late Tuesday while all of these companies had representatives at the Farm Progress Show in Iowa with thousands of farmers and all the nation’s major farm media in attendance – but no formal announcement was made at the show. They appear to be targeting a general media audience with this – which is great and it did get some good coverage. However, it seems like it also deserved to be publicized at the biggest farm show in the Midwest among people who actually know what corn stover is. Just a thought.