In recent decades, advances in agriculture have led to steadily increasing yields. Demand for corn continues to increase, but since field corn is all harvested at about the same time, it needs to be kept somewhere until it’s needed, whether for the animals that eat it or the processors that turn it into whatever is needed, from biofuels to cornmeal. Or, if prices are too low, kept until prices rise to a level where the farmer makes enough money to pay his bills.
Here are two possible solutions: really big grain bins or airtight polyethylene tubes or bags. I saw both as I toured the area around Arapahoe. There was a third that I didn’t see, because it only appears as it is filled: a giant bin that “inflates” as corn is pumped in. It is one of the largest corn storage units in the world. Jane pointed out the spot where it would “grow” as corn continued to come in. Considering how large the metal bins were, it’s almost hard to imagine how big the new structure will be when filled.
The storage tubes are essentially “emergency” storage, when the crops overwhelm the ability to move them all to other storage facilities or processors. They are not just used for corn, and they are not just used in the United States. They give farmers worldwide the ability to store more in a good year, so it’s there when the inevitable bad year occurs. In a world where demand is growing but land is often vanishing, being able to store grain, soybeans, and other crops on the same land that grew them can make a huge difference in making certain nothing goes to waste.
And here’s a tube not yet filled, just to show that it really is corn—classic yellow Corn Belt dent corn.