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Production costs of potential corn stover harvest and storage systems

Vadas, Peter A., Digman, Matthew F.
Biomass and bioenergy 2013 v.54 pp. 133
Farms and Farming Systems, bags, bioenergy, chopping, corn stover, feedstocks, harvesting, production costs, silage, storage, North America
Corn stover has potential as a bioenergy feedstock in North America. We simulated production costs for stover harvest (three-pass and two-pass with baling or chopping, and single-pass with baling or chopping) and on-farm storage (outdoor and indoor bales, outdoor wrapped bales, and chopped stover in bags, bunks, or piles). For three- and two-pass harvest, chopping was 33–45% more expensive than baling. For baling and chopping, two-pass harvest was 25% cheaper than three-pass. Single-pass chopping harvests were on average 42% cheaper than three-pass or two-pass chopping. Single-pass baling was cheaper (4–31%) than multi-pass baling at low rates of stover collection, but more expensive (1–39%) at high rates of collection. For bales, outdoor storage of wrapped bales was cheapest. Outdoor, unwrapped bale storage, even with 12% dry matter loss, was cheaper than indoor storage. For chopped stover, storage in bags was always cheapest, followed by piles, and then bunkers. With harvest and storage together, there were four least cost systems: single-pass, ear-snap baling with wrapped bale storage; single-pass chopping with silage bag storage; and two-pass baling with wrapped-bale storage. A second group of harvest/storage systems was 25% more expensive, including single-pass, whole-plant baling with wrapped-bale storage; two-pass chopping with silage-bag storage; and three-pass baling with wrapped-bale storage. The three-pass chop harvest with silage bag storage was most expensive. Our analysis suggests all harvest and farm storage systems have tradeoffs and several systems can be economically and logistically viable.