Swiss company Cormo has developed and demonstrated a new process for the utilisation of corn stover.
The products, a peat substitute and a natural superabsorbent, have both been demonstrated for use in several applications.
The process can generate value and additional benefits to the corn industry.
Corn stover is an unused residue of corn production; it is globally available, sustainable and relatively cheap. Cormo uses a harvest procedure consisting of conventional corn threshing (first step) and subsequent chopping of the stems (second step).
Removal of the stems renders mulching of the straw unnecessary; acts as an integrated control of the corn stem borer; and facilitates no-till farming. The removed stem parts only account for 15-20% of the total straw and do not compromise the status of corn as a humus-positive crop.
Cormo has developed, patented and validated the production process in its own demo line. For the business roll-out, it is seeking cooperation with industrial partners and is seeking to further collaborate with fuel ethanol industry players.
Clearly, the corn-based ethanol producers share a preoccupation for the joint raw material and its cost, as well as for sustainability aspects and carbon dioxide (CO2) savings. The same applies to agricultural cooperatives, which often supply the raw material to the ethanol industry. Stefan Grass, CEO of Cormo AG, said: “As we all need to find a way out of the COVID-19 crisis now, some industries will also need to re-evaluate their supply chains. Why not become more local, closed-circuit and sustainable now?”
Raw material harvest
Cormo has conducted and optimised its harvest scheme with a contractor and generated related experience over four seasons. The contractors are an important link to the landowners and benefit through additional machine utilisation and related income in the post-harvest season from November to February. Grass added: “Raw material cost is around 50% of our net production cost and makes agriculture a key strategic partner. “For realisation of a supply chain for our products, we are looking to cooperate with corn-based organisations in order to provide access to 5,000-10,000 hectares of corn stover per production unit.”
Cormo has developed a range of products for several sectors, including the mushroom industry, the construction sector and ammonia control animal rearing halls. The products have been validated scientifically and with commercial customers. Validation trials and product analysis indicate that the Cormo products can be better compared to today’s industry standards.
The initial product sales focus will be the mushroom sector, where Cormo’s product, TEFA, a fibrous structural material with low nutrient content similar to peat, can substitute black peat in casing soils. Considering the high cost of transport of such materials, the company intends to build regional production capacities in the consumer areas.
CO2 savings and sustainability
Mushrooms are generally perceived as healthy and environmentally friendly, but the mushroom industry relies on the use of peat, and faces related problems: high CO2-emissions over its lifecycle, destruction of moorland, restrictions of peat extraction (for example in the UK, Germany and Switzerland) and increasing uncertainties in the global supply chain. In contrast, the raw material corn straw is a mostly unused sustainable resource today. A comparative lifecycle analysis concluded that substitution of peat by TEFA can save 85% of the peatrelated CO2 emissions.
For more information: This article was written by Cormo CEO Stefan Grass. Visit: www.cormo.ch/en
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