Silage To Fuel

Grass Cutter

The paddock was as near to perfect for the job , as could be bought. An east west alignment, flat, with rising ground each side and a small westerly grade to give drainage. A storm flood would collect to the centre irrigation channel and flow out to lower ground. The centre plastic lined channel had taken a bit of time and money but it was the heart of the scheme. Originally set up for hay production, there had been enough water to divide the area for different crops. At times field peas, soft wheat, chick peas and oil seed for cooking or fuel. A new crop was anaerobic silage in storage tanks.

At five kilometers long and a total width of one and a half kilometers, giving an area of about seven hundred hectares or over eighteen hundred acres. Acres were his real measure of amount. The self propelled lateral shift irrigator centred on the water channel and took hours to travel up and back. Lucerne plants nursed and then transplanted with laser sighting had seemed fussy at the start, but using a sod seeder he could crop almost anything between the rows. The paired rows were sat just each side of the wheel runs to firm the tracking ground.

The deep roots of the Lucerne plants were the first defense against rising salt. The second defense was the tree belts planted back from the area edge. The trees had been set out into deep post holes filled with course sand and then dripper watered. The working day started mid afternoon at this time of year, with a drive around the patch, checking the fence for damage by animals. The high fence leaning out kept even foxes out, when dug in properly. All the trees seemed to be thriving with the tall species on the south side. The north wind in summer was a problem, but a winter shadow on the crop slowed the growth. The harvest trailers spread around the outer edges took a time to check, tyres and feed outlets. The circuit brought the ute to the shed and water storage tank.

First job was to start the out- board motor on the tank edge and dump in the fertilizer, giving it time to mix. Around twenty thousand kilolitres or four million gallons was needed to fill the channel and so he checked the start programme. A mixture of humidity, temperature, wind speed and direction, evaporation plus the ground moisture sensors combined into a time start programme in the computer. Generally his judgment and the machine were close, but not always. The ground sensors that showed the crop water usage were the variables to upset his estimate. He had unlocked the shed to check the computer and access fuel and to read the data logs on the tank temperatures. A recording of vision he ran at high speed to see if any intruders had been around.

He started filling the channel and checked the harvester while that happened. Tyres, oil, water and then fuel. There was enough water in the channel to start the irrigation plant so he did. Getting the motor bike he rode to one leg end to check each sprayer water was up to pressure. Going slowly he could see all the sprays were clear and the plant moving along the channel. He went around the end of the channel and checked the other side from centre to end, all clear. Time to see that the water storage tank was being refilled. It looked like the irrigator would do two full cycles. Twenty kilometers total distance, The last cycle should finish some time before dawn to prevent evaporation and salt concentration. Connecting the first trailer to the harvestor then driving to the top edge of the crop he began cutting and loading into the trailer. At each full load he drove to the first storage tanks and off loaded into an auger. This auger delivered to the top centre of the tank at the peak of a shallow cone, making sure each tank was completely full.

As the crop became silage the storage had to be topped up with green cuttings. Four tanks in a group kept the harvestor travel time to a minimum. The best growing conditions gave more crop than could be stored, so the extra was baled for hay. The mature silage was collected by tanker and taken to the local processing plant. Sand-groupers, West Australians had started the processing of organic waste into fuel, becoming a revolution. Meat processing plants were developing fuel from waste set to be meat meal. A trial of old type anaerobic silage had developed, into another fuel source, an income for the farm district. What had been overlooked was that all hydrocarbon cycles were the result of microbial action, from ancient deposition to degradation from liquid into gas and then to bitumen.

The progress made on the biology of the various crops was increasing the and amount of silage developed. Also the hydrocarbon was improving both in quantity and quality. The good news was finding their area was the start of the fuel pipe instead of the very expensive end. This local industry gave them not only storage of silage but storage of fuel. Having a store of fuel allowed a lot of freedom in forward selling, to balance the seasons better and even out their incomes out annually. The stored silage was an excellent input for animal husbandry. There was a small experiment with algae growing in ponds and the silage was a possible growth promoter. The fish farms were also interested in using it as a feed stock. The only dark spot was the need for a continuing water supply.

Copyright © Jack Beresford