OFA wants farmers to harvest the stalks

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Don McGugan has always liked to try new things on his Brooke-Alvinston farm.

The mayor was among the first in the province to plant his corn 20 inches apart and also was an early devotee to the no-till method.

So when the Ontario Federation of Agriculture Don McCabe was looking for a place to demonstrate cornstalk harvesting, McGugan was more than willing to let the machinery onto his fields.

On Nov. 4, 5, and 6, farm organizations, implement manufacturers and government agencies hope to show farms just what might be involved in baling what is now considered waste on their field. The hope is if enough farmers are interested the cornstalks could be sold as feedstock for bio-energy including making bio-succinic acid.

The OFA has been working on the project for a number of years and the technology is available to harvest the cornstalks, but now it’s trying to convince farmers to be part of a cooperative to provide enough feedstock to supply something like the Lambton Generating Station if it were to be converted to biomass.

McGugan thinks the project has merit. McGugan says once his corn is harvested about 70 percent of the plant is left on the field. With more plants per acre than ever, that’s a lot of material, especially if you aren’t plowing underground. “The soil gets so heavy and art to work with the next spring,” says McGugan.

He’s been told commercial operators would be contracted to go into each field and harvest some of the cornstalks, leaving about 30 percent on the field. “That will break down and make carbon and organic matter,” he says. “That would help out a lot because sometimes it’s a problem to get into the ground …with the refuse in the way.”

Buses will take interested farmers to McGugan’s farm on Old Walnut Road around 1 pm and there will be information sessions and lunch at the Inwood Fire Hall starting at 10 am.  For more information you can go to http://www.oaft.org/Uploads/Resources/Files/478_NovemberCardLowRes.pdf.