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Report finds efficiency of ethanol production from corn is improving

WILLMAR -- A new report from the Office of Energy Policy and New Uses indicates that the net energy gain from converting corn to ethanol is improving in efficiency.

The findings are based on survey results from ethanol producers who were asked to respond to questions regarding ethanol yields from a bushel of corn, and the amount of energy used by their plants. The findings also reflect the current practices used by corn producers and ethanol processors.

According to the report, ethanol overall made the transition from a net energy loss to a moderate net energy gain in the 1990s, and ethanol has made the transition to a substantial net energy gain at the present time. The potential exists for even further improved efficiency.

The report found that ethanol yields have increased by about 10 percent in the last 20 years. Therefore, proportionately less corn is required to produce ethanol.

In addition to the refinements in ethanol technology, corn yields have increased by 39 percent over the last 20 years. Therefore, less land is required to produce an equal amount of ethanol.

The report measured all conventional fossil fuel energy used in the production of one gallon of corn ethanol. For every British Thermal Unit of energy required to make ethanol, 2.3 BTUs of energy is produced.

The ratio is somewhat higher for some processing facilities that are partially substituting biomass energy for conventional fossil fuels. Since the last study in 2004, the net energy balance of corn ethanol has increased from 1.76 BTUs to 2.3 BTUs of required energy.

To view the entire report, go to:


Minnesota corn acreage down, bean acreage up

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's June acreage report, Minnesota farmers planted an estimated 7.5 million acres of corn this spring. This represents a 1 percent decrease from last year's final estimate. Of the 7.5 million acres planted to corn, about 7 million acres are expected to be harvested for grain.

Minnesota soybean acreage was also estimated at 7.5 million acres, up from the 7.2 million acres planted last year. This spring's planted acreage is equal to Minnesota's record high in 2003.

Minnesota sugar beet acreage was estimated at 451,000 acres, a decrease of 13,000 acres from 2009.

Nationally, USDA's June acreage report estimated that corn farmers had planted 87.9 million acres, up 2 percent from last year.

The largest increases in corn acreage were in Illinois and Kansas, both up 600,000 from 2009.

The largest decrease in corn acreage was in Iowa, down 400,000 acres. Corn acreage in both Nebraska and South Dakota is down 350,000 acres from the previous year.

Soybean acreage was estimated at a record high of 78.9 million acres, up 2 percent from 2009. Compared with last year, soybean acreage increased by 300,000 acres or more in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Minnesota hog inventory unchanged from one year ago

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, Minnesota hog producers had an inventory of 7.5 million hogs and pigs on June 1, unchanged from last year, but up 4 percent from March 1.

Minnesota's breeding hog inventory totaled 550,000 head, down 5 percent from one year ago. Market hogs and pigs totaled 6.95 million head, up slightly from a year ago.

The U.S. inventory of hogs and pigs totaled 64.4 million head on June 1, down 4 percent from one year ago, but up 1 percent from March 1.

June soybean prices increase, corn prices decline

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, prices received by Minnesota soybean farmers during June averaged $9.20 per bushel, up 5 cents from the average price for May.

June corn prices declined to an average of $3.30 per bushel, down 3 cents from May.

Hog prices averaged $59.90 per hundredweight, a decrease of $4.90 from May's average price.

June beef prices averaged $88.50 per hundredweight, down $3.20 from the previous month.

Minnesota milk prices during June averaged $15.20 per hundredweight, up 30 cents from the May average price.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.