1019 NowTime

10/19/2013 7:00 AM

To Estimate the Value of Corn Stalks

Following harvest, corn stalks are an abundant source of winter feed for low-maintenance ruminant livestock.

When supplemented with protein, vitamins and minerals, stalks can supply the nutritional needs of livestock in moderately good body condition during fall and early winter.

Corn stalks are also in demand for livestock bedding and mushroom soil composting, and are a potential feedstock for the production of ethanol.

One obvious advantage of using corn stalks is their wide availability. This has created a small but important market for stalks as a harvested product and as a standing crop in the field.

As with any market, a price must be determined. Three general approaches can be used to help us understand the costs we are confronted with when considering corn-stalk marketing and how to set a price.

These concepts include the value to the purchaser based on feedstuffs replaced by corn stalks. If we explore the energy, protein and mineral components of feeding corn stalks, we estimate that roughly $70 worth of purchased feed can be replaced per ton of stalks fed.

The next consideration is the cost to the seller of harvesting the stalks and replacing lost crop nutrients.

At least $40 worth of time, equipment, fuel and soil quality is removed from our farm enterprise for every ton of stalks we market to someone off the farm.

This does not account for the soil organic matter available from keeping our corn stalks on the farm or any off-farm transportation.

One also needs to consider what stalks are selling for on the market. Check your local markets, as this figure fluctuates widely by location and with seasonal demand.

For a detailed spreadsheet highlighting the array of expenses when considering corn-stalk marketing, visit http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/xls/a1-70cornstoverpricer.xlsx.

To Identify Palmer Amaranth <\n>Infestations in Your Fields

Palmer amaranth is a major new weed that has been identified in several locations in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Extension agronomist Bill Curran is still investigating the most recent occurrence but strongly suspects that seeds were spread through contaminated manure.

There is some question as to whether the seeds came from imported hay or perhaps cotton seed.

To keep this from spreading and becoming a major issue across the state, there are several steps we can take.

As grain harvest proceeds, pay attention to pigweeds that have survived herbicide programs in Roundup Ready crops, particularly soybeans.

Palmer amaranth is quite distinctive at this stage with long (10 to 20 inches) cylindrical seed heads generally rising above the soybean crop.

A major concern is that if Palmer amaranth seeds are harvested along with the grain, the seeds can quickly spread into neighboring fields or farms.

If you identify weeds that could be Palmer amaranth, there are several steps to take.

First, determine if the plants have set viable seed. This will be important for determining the future of the problem. If no viable seed is yet present (darkened seed that shatter) and the infestation is small, remove the plants from the field, and bury or burn them along the field edge.

If the problem is too large to handle by hand or if viable seeds are present, destroy (mow) the Palmer population along with the crop if necessary to prevent further seed production. Leave the residue in the field to prevent the possible spread of any seed.

At the very least — and this is not our first recommendation — harvest the infested field last and thoroughly clean the combine to prevent further spread. However, thoroughly removing Palmer amaranth seed from a combine will be quite challenging.

If you encounter a suspected Palmer amaranth infestation, contact your local county Extension educator or Bill Curran at wcurran<\@>psu.edu or Dwight Lingenfelter at dwight<\@>psu.edu to help us track this potential problem.

In addition to following the guidelines for containment listed above, take the time to collect information to document the problem.

Record the location of fields or farm. Provide as much information as possible and include the farm, township, county and GPS coordinates if you can.

List the crops infested: soybeans, corn or others. Also, describe the infestation or the problem: how many plants, size of infestation (few plants, 10 to 100 plants, 100 to 1000 plants, more than 1,000 plants, one field, multiple fields, acres infested).

Did the plants survive herbicide management? If so, what herbicides? Describe the level of plant maturity upon discovery: juvenile, vegetative, early flowering, late flowering, mature seed present, post-harvest, etc.

Next, describe how the infestation was managed: not managed, plants removed by hand, mowed or destroyed, harvested with crop, etc. Did the plants produce mature seed prior to destruction or harvest? Was infestation contained or did it likely spread? What is your management plan next year, if applicable?

Finally, document the infestation problem with numerous digital photos of stems, leaves and flowers if possible.

An Ohio State video that explains the concern about Palmer amaranth along with some management options can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cn5boOP4t8&feature=youtu.be.

Quote of the Week

“To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.”

Thomas Jefferson

Leon Ressler is district director of Penn State Cooperative Extension for Chester, Lancaster and Lebanon counties

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