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Another potential Dust Bowl

By Staff | Apr 10, 2014

To the editor,

Larry Kershner had two articles “Managing soil after stover removal” and “If you grow it … they will build a plant,” (March 21) trumpeting the “glory” of cellulosic ethanol.

Continued emphasis on the use of corn stover for cellulosic ethanol has the real potential for an environmental catastrophe rivaling the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, which, we all know, was caused by the removal of crop residue by mouldboard plowing.

Today, we are removing it by baling and sending it to POET, in Emmetsburg, and DuPont Pioneer, in Nevada, because so-called experts tell us with 180-bushel-per-acres yielding 5 tons of stover “at least half of that can be taken off.”

What does that mean? It doesn’t mean it can be done without any impact on the soil. All crop residue is potential organic matter if left on the surface for nature to perform it’s magical process of creating the “black stuff” that makes Iowa’s soil the most productive in the world.

The only argument that can possibly be made for removal of corn stover is that farmers who continue to try and bury it with tillage would be dollars ahead if they sell it and eliminate tillage.

I have observed many farmers selling stover, but, unfortunately, very few reduce or eliminate tillage. The result is bare fields bereft of residue allowing the maximum erosion as the ravages of a typical Iowa winter wreaks havoc.

A lot of hand-wringing has occurred because the Renewable Fuels Standard has been messed with, which negatively impacts ethanol, but, more specifically, according to many, is the death knell for cellulosic ethanol.

If true, hallelujah. Production of cellulosic ethanol is much more expensive than electricity developed from wind energy, which is at least twice as expensive as that developed from coal.

Tragically, I know about the cost of “clean green” energy, because I am one of the unfortunate thousands of Iowa landowners whose farm is split down the middle by the proposed route of Rock Island Clean Line carrying electricity from wind turbines in northwest Iowa to Chicago. The possibility exists we may be forced to sell because RICL might be given permission to exercise eminent domain.

The only reason POET and DuPont Pioneer has invested is because our federal government is in lock-stock with the environmental extremists who believe in man-made global warming, and, in turn, provide monetary incentives for construction of these plants.

They and RICL are dead in the water without subsidies.

Jerry Crew


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