A central Iowan who’s been heavily involved in Iowa’s ethanol industry says making ethanol from corn stalks will help row crop farmers reduce the amount of fertilizer they use. Bill Couser, a farmer who is on the board of directors for the “Lincolnway Energy” ethanol plant near Nevada. suggests Iowa farmers will be able to scale back the amount of farm chemicals they apply if corn stalks are cleared off the land and used to make ethanol.

“What’s happening is when we put our fertilizer down, a lot of that fertilizer is going to the residue that’s there to help break it down,” Couser says. “…We can, managed right, take some of this residue off and utilize it for another purpose.”

Couser rejects the notion the soil will blow away when the corn stalks are removed, as he says the root systems remain in place.

“With the hybreds that we’re developing today…when you look at drought-tolerant corn, it’s all about the root…The root system underneath the ground is tremendous compared to what we had 20 years ago,” Couser says. “…When you look at what’s above the ground today, as a farmer it’s become a real issue when it comes to residue management. When you drive by these corn fields, this residue on top there is a real problem.” 

And Couser argues removing those stalks for ethanol production will be a boon to the environment, as farmers will use less fertilizer, and the stalks will another income source for farmers.

According to Couser, Lincolnway Energy is one of two plants “in the running” as the site of a new “cellulosic” facility that would convert corn stalks into ethanol. Couser says it could boost per-acre profits significanlty.

“What happens if they need 4 ton per acre of corn stalks, now, to be able to produce 47 more gallons of ethanol?” Couser says. “…We’ve taken that 4 tons of corn stalks per acre…We’ve just added another $180.60 to the economic growth of the state of Iowa.” 

Couser made his comments during a speech at the Iowa Energy Forum.