I'm not so sure you should discount the idea of ear corn. The equipment manufacturers are always having to change what they produce, so that is little reason not to change our equipment away from combines. Lets face it, the combine of 2070 will probably not look like the combine of 1970 anyway. So we have to rebuild cribs, maybe they can be improved and how many of us would be put back to work. All the manufacturers produce is more expense computerized stuff that breaks every year away. And so far for, what I see what I see to collect the cob behind the combine looks like a New Idea 4 row picker with a wagon from the distance.
John, you remind me of some neighbors I have been privileged to have had over the decades - I really have enjoyed them, even tho I didn't agree with every idea they came up with.
RE: the piece on the advisability of returning to ear corn harvest - I do agree with the premise that we spend a LOT of money in drying a crop that could largely be dried by some modern version of the old 'natural' ways. I do not expect that it would wind up looking like the way that Al & I did it as kids in Indiana a few years back.
I do not mean to imply that you don't understand ear corn harvest and handling, but I do submit that the 21st century version would not necessarily look and act like the mid-20th century process that we remember. For that matter, I greatly suspect that the ear corn process that you remember was WAY more streamlined than that of you father's generation?
I submit that if the advantage of having the cobs [& maybe some of the shucks, etc] as a feedstock for biopower is able to stand on its own economic merit, then we as an industry will figure out the details.
As some are fond of pointing out -"follow the money" - if it works in such fashion that it helps pay the bills, farmers will figure how to make it work. After farmers decide what they want to accomplish, the machinery industry will make it available.
For decades now, several have touted cellulosic as the 'ideal' for ethanol feedstock. Most of the loudest 'touters' predicated their support for such stuff as a 'free lunch'; talk of using currently non- or low- productive land and by using some funky sounding grass or other poorly defined magic would convert that previously marginally useless land into the Garden of Eden - oh, yes, all this at no cost and no maintenance! What a deal! All that had to happen was for someone - read 'farmer' - had to produce, harvest, and deliver this magic to the public. No thought was given to the nuts and bolts, which explains why cellulosic ethanol is 'just around the corner - in the next few years', and has been for about 20+o years so far.
You may have noticed a recent article that cited a university study that gave swithchgrass the nod as the preferred biomass grass species. The article also said that they were using supplemental fertilization - a point I had not seen before in the grass-to-biomass-feedstock discussion. What? No free lunch? I'm aghast!
Do I believe we'll get to feasible cellulosic biopower? Yes, but I also believe the technology to surmount the objections to ear corn harvest will be easier to adapt. This is long, but one more observation - you mentioned that you would need several times the storage space for your current operation; some time back you suggested that the 'old' shelled corn storage you had was so inefficient that you really needed to do away with it in favor of more modern, efficient facilities. Is that any different that going to a modern version of an ear corn handling system?
Incidentally, a bushel is technically a volume measurement - 1.25 cubic feet for all except ear corn, which is 2.5 cubic feet to accommodate for the cob volume, so that the yield of shelled grain would in fact be 1.25 cubic feet. The assumed [ and [pretty close rule of thumb] was 80%.
I will bore you no longer. Please tell Al 'Hi' from a classmate he is kind enuff to say he remembers.
Larry Whinery [AG '59]
Huntington, IN 46750