IN FALL 2008, the ethanol company POET held a field day at its plant in Emmetsburg, IA, featuring equipment that could harvest grain as well as cobs in the same field pass. Just two months ago, POET held another field day to show how this equipment has progressed.

Strides made in equipment design are enabling farmers to collect cobs, which POET will use at Project Liberty, the company's 25-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol facility in Emmetsburg. The biorefinery is expected to begin commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production by the end of 2011.

Harvesting corncobs is a new revenue opportunity for Emmetsburg-area farmers, says Scott Weishaar, POET's vice president of commercial development. This opportunity could expand to corn growers around the country.

During the field day, POET representatives discussed cob procurement contracts with farmers. These contracts will be for three, four and five years. The contract price for cobs will average $55/dry ton equivalent. A new division, POET Biomass, will manage harvest and transportation logistics for cobs.

Seventeen equipment manufacturers have been working with POET and 14 Emmetsburg-area farmers to test cob collection equipment. They demonstrated their equipment at the field day.

John Deere, for example, demonstrated its corncob biomass harvesting equipment. It has been working on a flexible prototype that will not slow harvest operations.

Case IH showed its Axial-Flow 8120 combine and biomass harvesting equipment. The biomass cart is attached to the combine and works as a system with 88 series and Axial-Flow combines. System controls are integrated into the combine's cab for on-the-go unloading. The cart can be attached and detached from the combine for fast conversion to other crops or harvest modes. It includes an adjustable cleaning system to tailor the cob/stover sample, depending on what the ethanol producer wants.

AGCO featured a one-pass system that combines its combine technology and a Hesston large square baler to collect and package clean corncobs, husks and leaves into 3- × 4-ft. square bales. AGCO expects that the system will be easily adapted to other biomass feedstocks, such as cereal grains, and will be offered for all Class VIII combines.

Also demonstrated was Vermeer's CCX770 cob harvester, a pull-type cob collection wagon that allows farmers to harvest grain and cobs in one pass. This self-contained cob harvester is designed to tow behind qualified corn harvesters.

Redekop Manufacturing showed its C180 cob cart, which holds two loads from the company's H165 cob harvester while on the go in the field. The cart's conveyor unloads cobs from the cart to create tapered piles of cobs. The cart requires only a low-horsepower tractor and is powered by the tractor's PTO and hydraulics.

Also shown was the Oxbo line of high-lift dump carts, which are built to lift and dump up to 30,000 lbs. or 1,100 cu. ft.