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Author Topic: What will the combine of the future look like? Back to Topics
darwinfinch

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Gasbuddy

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Message Posted: Jun 7, 2013 12:21:22 PM

Cellulosic ethanol is already rising as a commercial opportunity. The cobs, stalks, and stover in a field are now valuable. Given that most of the machinery in a combine harvester is engineered to separate the kernels and discard the rest, what will future rigs look like? Do we need the harvester to spend so much time/energy on separating the components? Couldn't we just grind mill it all in the field?
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goldseeker
Champion Author West Virginia

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Message Posted: Jul 1, 2013 4:14:54 AM

John Deere's answer.
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SoylentGrain
Champion Author Illinois

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Message Posted: Jun 30, 2013 7:57:02 AM

I like your thinking, darwinfinch. No reason why Deere or CNH couldn't build a machine that picks, shells the corn, and bails the stalks in one pass. This new process would have upsides and downsides.

The upside would be extracting more value per acre. The farmer wants that and, as a landowner, I want to see him make more money, so I can obtain more rent.

The downside is the machine would be more complex, which increases the time the machine will be down in the field. The more complex the machine, the greater the chances it will break. Time is a critical issue during harvest. Farmers are dealing with the weather. A window of hours is critical. Messing with repairing a machine is not an option folks like to face.

While the stalks are used for bedding and will be used for ethanol, in the future, they do have nutrient value, used by plants in the following year. harvesting the stalks, means a higher chemical cost the following year.

Interesting thought.

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OceanArcher
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Message Posted: Jun 28, 2013 9:04:14 AM

Just need another truck to follow along behind the harvester to catch the waste materials ...
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Shockjock1961
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Message Posted: Jun 8, 2013 12:48:57 PM

"Cellulosic ethanol is already rising as a commercial opportunity"

It is?
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darwinfinch
Veteran Author Gasbuddy

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Message Posted: Jun 7, 2013 1:01:16 PM

I didn't mean to imply that ALL fields would be harvested in this way, but that it would be possible to harvest any given field in a much simpler way IF it was known that the crop would all be hauled to a biorefinery. I'm just exploring efficiency and the idea that if it need not be separated for certain scenarios, why separate it?

And yes, currently cellulosic and traditional are separate processes but one can imagine a future system which can process all biostocks, break down the cellulose where appropriate, and go to work on all types of sugars in the material (something cellulosic technology already addresses).

Also: "The removal of all of the chaf would render fields useless in a couple of growing seasons." Not true... in the past, this is how corn harvesting was done... by bailing the entire plant then taking it back to the farm for shredding, shucking, shelling, etc. The stover/etc. would be used for other pursposes... and today, we still have fertile grounds.
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brerrabbitTX
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Message Posted: Jun 7, 2013 12:43:03 PM

Interesting question but your thought about "Do we need the harvester to spend so much time/energy on separating the components? Couldn't we just grind mill it all in the field?" leads one to belive you are making certain assumptions like, we won't eat corn or corn products anymore, we will use all corn growth to make ethanol exclusively, and there is no residual value of the chaf and corn stalks for other purposes.

Corn becomes ethanol in a different process than biomass ethanol is made. You need enzyems to convert the biomass into the sugars needed for the fermentation process that creates ethanol. Corn is very rich in those sugar and does not need the enzyme to convert. So using those enzymes which are expensive currently on the corn would be wasteful and costly. Further what makes a lot of fields fertile is the fact that after the harvest much of the chaf left after harvest is plowed back into the fields so the soil can absorb the nutrients and continue to be fertile and good growing acrerage. The removal of all of the chaf would render fields useless in a couple of growing seasons. This is why the biomass ethanol process is looking to other sources of material other than corn and corn stalks. They are exploring switchgrass, algae, and other bio waste materials. Finally until the RFA expires or new legislation changes it, and assuming no new rules chnge the exsisting thought process the amount of ethanol made from corn is capped at I believe 15 billion gallons per year which we are we are rapidly approaching.

For all these reasons I don't think John Deer, or International Harvestor is spending much time redesigning their combines.

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