Manufacturers perfect corn cob harvesters

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Agricultural equipment manufacturers will continue testing corn-cob-harvesting equipment this fall in an effort to perfect the machines in advance of a projected increase in demand for corn cobs.

Poet LLC in Sioux Falls, S.D., is scheduled to continue testing and demonstrating corn-cob-harvesting equipment in November. Last year, the company teamed up with equipment manufacturers to harvest cobs from 4,000 acres of farmland in South Dakota. Poet plans to use cobs to produce cellulosic ethanol at the company's planned $200 million biorefinery in Emmetsburg, Iowa, which is slated for completion in 2011. Poet is working with multiple companies to develop cob-harvesting technologies, including Vermeer Corp., Kinze Manufacturing Inc., SmithCo Manufacturing Inc., Demco, Agco Corp., Claas of America Inc., Deere & Co., and CNH America LLC, according to Doug Berven, director of corporate affairs at Poet.

Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. LLLP scheduled corn-cob-harvesting demonstrations in October across 5,000 acres in Minnesota, the company said. It's working with the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, Minn., under a $250,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, and the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council to educate farmers about cob harvesting, and to evaluate techniques. The university's WCROC plans to create a cob-collection video and a "how-to" guide for farmers. Both CVEC and the University of Minnesota, Morris recently commissioned cob-fed biomass gasification systems.

Pella, Iowa-based Vermeer was one of the manufacturers that participated in both demonstrations with its prototype CX770 Cob Harvester, a wagon-style cob collector that trails behind the combine to collect grain and cobs in one pass, according to Jay Van Roekel, segment manager for Vermeer. Van Roekel said he expects demand for cob harvesters to pick up within the next 15 months. "If it was ready today, I think we could sell it today," he said.