As the markets for biomass grow, so does the development of biomass-handling equipment. Continued testing on corncobs and dedicated energy crops has allowed manufacturers to tweak the equipment to make handling more efficient. Here’s a quick update.

Vermeer

Vermeer Corporation, Pella, Iowa, has sold the 605 Super M Cornstalk Special Baler for five years. Jay Van Roekel, Vermeer, says the baler has been working well in all residue crops.

It is designed to collect cornstalks and roll them into a tight round bale. Its scale displays the weight of each bale, and a sensor provides an estimate of each bale’s moisture content.

Because dedicated energy crops are very tall and produce high-volume biomass, growers may want to use mower conditioners to help hasten drydown and break stems so that they can use traditional balers, Van Roekel notes.

Vermeer also has developed powered rakes to help reduce ash content at harvest. Vermeer’s R2800 TwinRake, for example, sweeps the crop into a windrow and its hydraulically driven baskets have rubber-mounted teeth that avoid contact with the ground. Operators can adjust windrow width to match their balers.

Vermeer has developed horizontal and tub grinders to process biomass material for energy plants.

Vermeer also continues to work with farmers in field-testing the CCX770 cob collection wagon, although this has primarily been used for feed and bedding in cattle feedlots. The combination of the CCX770 and a Class 7 or higher combine collects from 2/3 to 1 dry ton/acre in fields averaging 200-bu./acre corn. “Harvesting cobs is very sustainable since you only remove about 15% of the residue,” Van Roekel says.

 

AGCO

AGCO has continued testing the combination of its Challenger combine and the LSB34B baler for harvesting biomass. Farmers are testing the combination, including those growers who are collecting corncobs for Poet’s Project Liberty project, a 25-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol facility that will be attached to Poet’s existing corn-based ethanol plant.

“We are continuing to perfect this combination, and development is coming along nicely,” says Todd Stucke, AGCO director of hay and harvesting. “Our new series combine can handle higher amounts of material other than grain and not lose efficiency, allowing it to harvest more corn stover.”

Meanwhile, the Hesston by Massey Ferguson 2170XD “extra density” large square baler, introduced this year, helps growers produce the extra-dense bales that biomass markets prefer. The baler’s heavier flywheel helps create 3- x 4-ft. bales, up to 9 ft. in length, and 15% heavier than the standard MF2170 baler and 30% greater than standard MF2170 balers sold before model year 2010, AGCO reports.

AGCO also recently introduced the Hesston by Massey Ferguson WR9700 Series self-propelled windrowers and has developed the 9196 biomass header specifically for dedicated energy crops like switchgrass, Miscanthus and energy cane. An auger attachment on the header crimps and conditions grasses destined for biomass markets.