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Woody biomass harvesting

Tue, Nov 10th, 2009
Posted in Agriculture

For those who like to look into the future and see what sort of potential we have, and what sort of research is being done on woody biomass for renewable energy, a great opportunity is coming up at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center (SROC). They will be hosting a New Holland FR9000 Forage Harvester with an 130FB Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) Woody Crop Header on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 (alternate date is October 22), from noon to 3:00pm. When utilizing the 130FB SRC Woody Crop Header, the New Holland FR9000 is capable of cutting and chipping woody biomass as if it was corn silage.

Questions and conversation regarding woody biomass for renewable energy and the New Holland FR9000 / 130FB Header will be conducted at 12:00pm and 2:00pm. The Woody Biomass Forage Harvester Demonstration Field Day will be held in the willow trails at SROC's Agricultural Ecology Research Farm.

Woody biomass is being proposed as a feedstock for a number of bio-industrial and renewable energy applications. The State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry has been working with Cornell University and Case New Holland to develop a harvest system for short rotation coppice woody biomass crops.

The New Holland FR9000 with a 130FB Header attachment is a harvest system using a conventional forage harvester equipped with a specialty cutting attachment for woody crop harvest. This self-propelled harvester can cut and chip standing short rotation woody biomass in the field in a single pass operation while providing wood chips of a uniform length and size.

Partners for this event include: Case New Holland; University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center; Rural Advantage; University of Minnesota Extension; Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management; University of Minnesota College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences; and University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources.

Directions to SROC's Agricultural Ecology Research Farm: From State Hwy 14, follow signage for State Hwy 14 West. Immediately look for Co. Rd. 27. It will take you past the Waseca Airport. Follow to Co. Rd. 57 and the road construction. Travel east about 1.0 mile to Agricultural Ecology Research Farm. If you have questions or concerns contact: Dr. Gregg Johnson - SROC - 507-837-5617 or Jill Sackett - UM Extension and Rural Advantage - 507-238-5449.

Watch for frost

damage in corn crops

ST. PAUL, Minn. - This week's freezing temperatures in much of the state have ended the growing season for most of the Minnesota landscape, according to Dr. Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist. While the outlook does not seem to be critical for the crops which have reached maturity, some corn may be affected.

"The majority of the corn in Minnesota is at or beyond the "half-milk" stage, and most of it in southern Minnesota is at or very close to maturity," said Dr. Jeff Coulter, a corn specialist in Extension. "A hard killing frost at the half-milk stage could reduce final grain yield by eight to 12 percent; however, the impact of frost on corn yield decreases as the crop gets closer to maturity. Corn is mature when there is no visible milk line and a black layer is present just under the tip of the kernel. For corn that is nearly mature, a killing frost will have little impact on grain yield."

Coulter and Seeley agree that corn prematurely killed by a frost will dry in the field at a rate that is similar to corn that reaches maturity before a frost. Seeley added, "The cold may even spur faster field dry down rates so farmers won't have to spend so much money on drying." On average, we can expect a drying rate of 0.5 to 0.25 percent per day between October 6 and October 15, and 0 to 0.33 percent per day between October 16 and October 31 in Minnesota.

The grain moisture of corn naturally drops as the crop matures, but corn grain that is prematurely frozen and at a high moisture level will need sufficient sun and wind to facilitate in-field drying. This is particularly important, as there is a lot of moisture in the cobs of frost-damaged corn, and sometimes the husks on these plants do not loosen as well as normal.

In cases of early frost damage on less mature corn, different management of the crop may need to take place. University of Minnesota Extension has created a website for corn and soybean producers who are dealing with frost. The website can be found at

Utilize corn stalks as a feedstuff for beef cattle grazing

ST. PAUL, Minn. (10/12/2009) -As fall corn harvest and calf weaning arrive, the thoughts of many Minnesota cattle producers turn to determining what sources they will utilize to background calves and feed cows through fall and into winter. One greatly underutilized resource for fall grazing is cornstalk residue.

This fall's Minnesota corn crop is estimated at somewhere around 1.2 billion bushels harvested from 7.7 million acres. The residue that remains after corn harvest can be effectively utilized as cattle feed, with an average total dietary nutrient concentration of 50-55 percent and a crude protein concentration of four to six percent. Although these values are low it important to recognize that after weaning, the nutrient requirements for cows are also very low and can nearly be met with cornstalk grazing alone.

The most palatable parts of cornstalk residue are the husk and the leaf, so naturally these portions will be consumed first with the remaining stem and cob being less desirable to cattle. Therefore, one important consideration is the amount of husk and leaf that is available. The University of Nebraska devised a formula to determine this amount based on corn yield. The formula is: Pounds of leaf and husk per acre = [bushels per acre corn grain yield X 38.2] + 429) x 0.39.

This year's Minnesota corn crop is estimated to average 167 bushels/acre. Using the formula, this would result in 2,650 pounds of leaf and husk per acre. About 50 percent of this will be lost due to trampling and other factors, so about 1,325 pounds will be available for grazing. This amount of residue is enough to feed a 550-pound steer for about 85 days, and is enough to feed a 1,400 pound cow for about 45 days.

Because the protein content of cornstalk residue is low, supplementation may be necessary. A good rule of thumb for calves grazing cornstalk residue is to supplement approximately 0.5 to 0.9 pounds of protein per day. This can be accomplished with alfalfa hay at three to five pounds per head daily, dried distillers grains at two to three-and-a-half pounds per head daily, or soyhulls at four to seven pounds per head daily. For cows, daily supplementation of about four pounds of alfalfa hay, three pounds of dried distillers grains, or six pounds of soyhulls is enough to meet nutrient requirements when grazing cornstalks.

Cornstalk residue grazing can be a low-cost, low-input method of grazing for both calves and cows. Specific attention should be paid to stocking rates and supplementation levels to ensure that this practice is completed in the most cost-effective way possible.

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