Improved hybrids offer benefits for ethanol plants

Farm Forum

Hybrids and agronomic practices have been developed to increase starch content in corn, making it beneficial for use in ethanol facilities. And, best of all, growers can capitalize on that increase to earn a premium.

Chris Tingle, the head of marketing for Water and Enogen Optimization at Syngenta, explained in a phone interview that the company has patented seed that produces corn that can be used more efficiently in the ethanol process.

While not available everywhere, part of the strategy is to make the process available in the future.


In a press release, David Witherspoon, head of Enogen for Syngenta, said the robust alpha amylase enzyme found in Enogen corn helps an ethanol plant dramatically reduce the viscosity of its corn mash, and reduce – or possibly eliminate – the need to add a liquid form of the enzyme.

Witherspoon said, “Farmers who grow Enogen corn benefit as well – they earn an average premium of 40 cents per bushel.”

A number of ethanol plants in the U.S. are considering the technology and developing relationships. In 2015, the Enogen technology is in its fifth year in the market. Nine plants will use this specific type of corn.

Syngenta anticipates growers will plant 225,000 acres of Enogen corn in 2015, and nearly double that in 2016, planting about 450,000 acres.

“Growers with an Enogen contract can receive an additional 10 cents per bushel premium above the current Enogen contract premium by following agronomic protocols outlined in the Ethanol Grain Quality Solution,” Tingle said. “Plus, growers who have purchased Golden Harvest or NK Corn can receive 10 cents more per bushel for any additional bushels of corn produced under the Ethanol Grain Quality Solution protocol, provided those bushels are delivered to the ethanol plant.”

Improved quality

Another factor in ethanol production efficiency is the quality of its feedstock.

There are times when grain delivered to ethanol plants arrives with cracked kernels and debris. The company’s Ethanol Grain Quality Solution provides the ethanol plant and its growers more high-quality grain, while improving return on investment.

The EGQS is a program that four plants are participating in, with other prospects.

According to Tingle, by supplying ethanol plants high ethanol yielding grain – all year long – growers can maximize profitability.

The amount of ethanol yield per bushel is one of the most important drivers of ethanol plant profitability. Growers participating in the EGQS have seen a 10-15 percent yield increase.

“We work directly with the plants, that’s the most efficient way,” Tingle said. “The biggest expense is the corn seed itself. The plants want to bring in grain that is of high quality and works efficiently in the process.”

The EGQS was piloted in 2014. This year is the first year seed from that program will be available for growers. Currently there are 82,000 acres enrolled in the EGQS for 2015, and Syngenta expects substantial growth in 2016.


At the present, there are no South Dakota or North Dakota ethanol plants using Enogen corn enzyme technology, or participating in the EGQS, Tingle said. Some are watching the developments closely.

If Syngenta were to engage an ethanol plant tomorrow, it would be 12-18 months before the plant would be using Enogen corn commercially, Tingle said.

Tingle said it’s a two-phase process. In addition to growing the corn, the employees at the ethanol plant have to understand the changes in the process.

He said the company has a number of candidate plants. The ethanol plants and growers partner with Syngenta to improve grain quality and increase profit potential, according to Tingle.

To begin, a full technology field team assesses the plant and growers in the area.

Tingle said, “We begin working with growers in the fall of the year with a number of fields within an area. Those who can participate in the program bring in their local service team. This includes all those people a farmer or grower works with, including the seed dealer, the crop protection dealer, and the crop consultants. We bring them together in a forum and review how to grow the crop, show them the data and the protocols. We review what needs to be done to increase production, increase yields, increase starch,” he said. “We put together a plan for each grower. The participating ethanol plants need growers to use the right inputs that promote yield and grain.”

The ethanol plants and growers partner with Syngenta to improve grain quality and increase profit potential, according to Tingle.

“We’re rapidly expanding our footprint,” he said. “While we want customers, it takes a process and a community for ethanol production. It’s about making our growers and the ethanol industry more sustainable and more profitable. If growers are interested, they can contact Syngenta sales reps for more information.”

He said what it comes down to is that growers grow more corn, which grows more ethanol, and grows strength in the communities.

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