Benson, Minn. – Specially-equipped combines chomped through several thousand acres of corn this fall — collecting cobs as well as grain.

The Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company in Benson collected cobs from its producer-shareholders to gasify and power its 47 million gallon-per-year ethanol plant. CVEC currently gasifies wood chips for power.

General Manager Bill Lee says about one ton of cobs can be collected from each acre of 200 bushel-per-acre corn. He estimates cobs from 108,000 corn acres, needed for the co-op’s ethanol production, can meet 75 percent of the plant’s thermal energy needs.

Gene Fynboh, CVEC biomass collection coordinator, says the co-op held three demonstration events showcasing the cob collection. Two technologies were tested, including a self- ontained unit pulled behind a combine and a system mounted on a combine. “We had a very good cross section of people who came to check out the collection — from government representatives to scientists and academics to farmers,” Fynboh says. “You could tell the people who caught the vision and understood what we’re trying to do.”

AURI, the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council support the cob-collection project. U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center staff in Morris will analyze yields and monitor cob quality. Cobs will be gasified in the CVEC system and at a newly-installed system at the U of M Morris campus. A video and informational packet will be produced for corn farmers interested in cob harvesting.