Native grasses and windbreak anchor soil on our CRP land in Nebraska
When it comes to making decisions, I'm often victim in believing the last thing I've heard or read on a topic. In this case, it's a belief that biofuels grasses might be the salvation of our small farm in central Nebraska. The dryland currently is seeded down to warm-season grasses, but what to do when the contract runs out in four years? Based on the last thing I've read, I think I'll buy a pellet mill and start selling densified biofuel grass to the nearest electric or ethanol plant. Won't I?
Clif Little, an Ohio State professor and extension educator, told me recently that switchgrass has potential in Ohio because a coal-burning electric generation plant in the southeast part of the state is considering the warm-season grass as source of fuel. In a review he's done, prices for pelleted switchgrass fuel range from $125 to $175 per ton, and production costs are at about 82/ton, not including transportation, storage or pelleting. So, doing some rough math, I could make about $300 an acre, if I don't have to truck the stuff to southeast Ohio anyway. Couldn't I?
So that's one idea. Another fellow I talked with recently, just before I communicated with Clif Little, suggested that I consider grass-fed beef. That's not a bad idea. The math isn't too bad on that either, if I can find a slaughtering plant nearby and don't have to sit in a farmer's market in Kearney every Saturday.
Earlier this week, I got a press release from the National Bison Association, touting the advantages of bison ranching to prospective growers. I like the idea of bringing buffalo back to Buffalo County. Would certainly have to rebuild the fences, though.
An Extension agent once told me I should plow up the whole quarter, drop a pivot in the middle and grow corn. But, wait a minute, why did we get to this CRP fix in the first place?
A friend of mine in central Kansas always says his most profitable crop year in and year out is alfalfa. We're at about the same longitude and have better soils, I think, plus some irrigation across the road. And, hmmm, there are alfalfa procesors and feedlots nearby....
So, help me out, what would you do?
Plow it up, put in a pivot and plant corn
Leave it in warm-season grass for hay or biofuel production
Start a grass-fed beef operation (or what the hay, how about bison?)
Plant dryland corn and soybeans
Sell the ground as soon as the CRP contract ends
Please remember, I usually believe the last thing I hear....