COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Prolonged drought is prompting some
Midwest farmers to sell corn stalks they typically would treat as waste
to feed hungry, hay-deprived cattle.
The Columbia Missourian
(bit.ly/UTip1w) reports that area corn farmers are collecting stalks
that usually are left in fields. The leftover stalks are known as corn
A market summary compiled by the Missouri Department of
Agriculture shows that corn stover is selling in the state for $60 to
$100 per ton, or $35 to $45 per large round bale. The state agency
didn't even track corn stover sales prices until this year, and nor does
the National Agricultural Statistics Service, whose director says corn
stover isn't typically considered a farm commodity.
"If you look
at corn stover historically, it has really come into play this year,"
said Gary Wheeler, vice president of operations and grower services at
the Missouri Corn Growers Association. "It has really helped out the
corn growers and the cattle industry."
The U.S. Drought Monitor's
latest weekly report shows that 60.1 percent of the continental U.S. was
experiencing some degree of drought on Tuesday, the country's most
widespread and sustained drought in decades. Nearly one-fifth of the
contiguous U.S. remained in extreme or exceptional drought, the two
Jefferson City farmer Jeff Fischer said he
had harvested and baled the corn stalks on his 1,500 acres the past two
years and plans to continue doing so to meet the demand. With his corn
crop yielding just half of its anticipated production for the year, he
considers stover a "value-added" crop.
"It's been profitable," he said.
interest in harvesting corn stalks is prompting agricultural equipment
manufacturers to build round balers specifically designed to handle corn
stalks. A new round baler made by Deere and Co. includes features such
as heavier teeth to pick up stalks of corn and stronger belts used to
shape the round bale.
"It's a beefed-up version," said Keaton Wheelan, a salesman at Sydenstricker John Deere in Mexico, Mo.
while stover harvesting may be a short-term fix for declining corn
yields, it also can increase erosion and nutrient loss in some areas.
Davis, an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural
Resource Conservation Service, said his agency recommends farmers not
remove corn stalks on fields with slopes greater than 5 percent grade.
fields that have more slope are going to be more vulnerable," he said.
"Many people undervalue the cost of erosion. That is a hidden cost."
the stalks provides less soil cover to prevent erosion, Davis said —
especially in the spring when there is a substantial amount of soil
And when corn stalks are removed from a field, so are
nutrients in the stalks that would have been put back into the soil,
Davis said, although many of the nutrients lost during corn stover
harvest can be replaced by nutrients in chemical fertilizers.