Don McGugan sees the giant bales of cornstalks in his field on Old Walnut Road as money in his pocket.
The Brooke-Alvinston mayor allowed the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and a number of equipment dealers to head into his cornfield for three days to show farmers, scientists and businesspeople just how the now unused stocks could be harvested becoming a new income source for farmers.
Don McCabe, an Inwood farmer who is the vice president of the OFA, is one of the people behind the project. He says Iowa farmers are delivering their cornstalks to a plant which is using it as feedstock. Southern Ontario, he says, is one of the only climate that has the ability to grow as much corn as Iowa and is an excellent candidate for a cooperative to harvest and sell the cornstalks to plants such as BioAmber in Sarnia.
“Mostly this week, we have proven this can be done,” said McCabe standing in the field in a steady drizzle. About 150 people watched as the harvester removed about 70 per cent of the cornstalk from the remaining plants leaving just enough on the field to regenerate the land.
McGugan seems sold. “I think it’s great. It’s really wet and the machinery is not trampling the land…damage to the land will be a big concern for farmers,” he says. “The baler did a nice job.”
On the Old Walnut Road field there were four bales of cornstalk per acre. “If we get $100 per bale that’s money in our back pocket.”
McCabe says a price hasn’t been set yet, but he agrees this could be a good source of income for farmers “without having to buy new land.”
The OFA will continue to investigate the idea of setting up a coop in southern Ontario. McCabe says they’re also looking for end users for the cornstalks. One possibility is BioAmber; another is a citric acid plant in Port Colborne.