The market for corncobs for cellulosic ethanol production is still new. So, too, is the market for other types of biomass. But new research and new collection equipment are paving the way for the use of biomass in the commercial production of biofuels and bioenergy.


Vermeer Corporation

Vermeer Corporation, Pella, IA, has been developing biomass-harvesting equipment for the ethanol market from the outset. Over the last couple of years, corn growers have gone from asking basic questions about cob-collection equipment to asking detailed questions about how the market for cobs is developing, observes Jay Van Roekel, product manager for Vermeer.

Having approved Woodford Equipment as a new dealership in Emmetsburg, IA, this summer, Vermeer is in a good position to see what’s happening firsthand. Emmetsburg also is home to Project Liberty, POET’s 25-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol facility, which will be attached to its existing corn ethanol plant. POET expects the facility will begin producing commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol by the end of next year. The plant will use corncobs and corn residue as primary feedstocks.

Woodford Equipment has sold and serviced several 605 SM Cornstalk Special round balers for second-pass harvest, Van Roekel says.

Vermeer has been working with about 20 farms throughout the Corn Belt to field test its CCX770 cob-collection wagon, which is towed behind Class 7 or higher combines. “We’ve moved beyond prototypes,” says Van Roekel, adding that the system will collect 2/3 to 1 dry ton/acre in a cornfield that yields an average 200 bu. of grain. The amount of dry matter will correspond to the amount of grain yield harvested.

Cobs and other corn residue are caught from the back of the combine. “The best time to catch this material is while harvesting. Farmers tell us it doesn’t slow them down,” Van Roekel says.

Using this system, one would unload cobs every third grain dump (about every five to seven acres), Van Roekel says, adding that it takes about 90 sec. to offload cobs. With a Class 7 harvester and 12-row head, this would add about 30 min. to the job on a typical farm, he says.