2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6, Page #10[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
New Ways To Plant “Energy” Crops
“Our planting systems can adapt to different planting densities with different crops,” explains Paul Carver of NEF. “We’ve worked with 6 different perennial grasses from Miscanthus to sugar cane for biomass, bioethanol, animal feed and sugar.”
Traditionally, many of these grasses have been hand-planted. NEF realized planting needed to be automated to catch on in a big way.
Working with W.H. Loxton in the U.K., NEF developed a fully automatic planter to plant rhizomes into properly prepared fields. It can handle all known rhizome types. The planter can cover more than 50 acres a day with a hopper that holds enough material to plant nearly 4 acres at a fill. It can variably rate plant from 4,800 to 24,000 pieces of rhizomes per acre. The 4-row unit plants on a 30-in. row spacing.
Because lots of potential biofuel crops require vegetative cuttings, not rhizomes, NEF also developed and introduced the Crop Expansion Encapsulation & Drilling System (CEEDS). Instead of cuttings, plant tissue is compressed into pellets encapsulated in a growing medium that can contain growth promoter and/or crop protection products. It can be handled and planted much like an overgrown seed by conventional equipment or with the planter developed by NEF.
“With CEEDS, we’re trying to make establishment of energy crops as precise as planting corn,” says Carver.
The method cuts the time required to multiply new cultivars by a third. It cuts planting material volume by 75 percent and transportation costs by 80 percent compared to rhizome or stem cuttings.
CEEDS plant tissue is healthier, and shoots emerge with more vigor and in greater number than with rhizomes or stem cuttings. Because the plant tissue used is produced under controlled, greenhouse conditions, new cultivars can be produced faster and at any time of the year.
“We have clones for Miscanthus, Arundo donax, Napier Grass, Energy Cane and Sugar Cane,” says Carver.
With cellulosic ethanol plants now in place in Iowa and Kansas and a plant planned to open in North Carolina, biofuel crops may soon be in high demand. Chemtex, the North Carolina plant, is projecting a need for 300,000 tons of energy crops.
“There are some large biofuel projects that will need feedstock crops put in the ground in a fairly narrow window,” said Carver. “We’re aiming at 16 ton per acre yields with our equipment.”
Carver says NEF is talking with several agricultural equipment manufacturers. “We haven’t decided yet if we’ll lease or sell equipment,” says Carver. “Pricing has not yet been determined either.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, New Energy Farms, 209 Erie Road North, Leamington, Ont. Canada N8H 3A5 (ph 519 326-7293; email@example.com; www.newenergyfarms.com) or New Energy Farms, 2360 Rainwater Road, Tifton, Ga. 31793 (ph 229 518-4233; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.newenergyfarms.com).
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