LANCASTER, Pa. — Perdue Agribusiness is so confident a proposed soybean crushing plant will soon take shape in Lancaster County that it wants farmers to get ready to produce more soybeans for the plant.
Richard Cole, manager of Perdue Agricultural Commodities Marketing Association, said he hopes producers in the state will bump up planted acreage of soybeans from the 520,000 acres they planted in 2012 to 600,000 acres if and when the Conoy Township, Lancaster County, soybean crushing plant gets built.
The plant, which was proposed in 2011, would be built on land adjacent to the county’s waste incinerator.
Excess steam produced by the incinerator will be used to power the soybean crushing facility, the fourth such facility Perdue will operate. It has similar plants in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.
But Perdue has come under criticism from some nearby residents who fear the amount of hexane that may be emitted from the plant — 245 tons a year, according to news reports — may cause environmental problems.
Peter Heller, project manager, said at a crops and pesticide seminar last week in Lancaster that he’s confident the company will satisfy the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which is currently reviewing its permit application.
“We are currently answering questions from DEP right now. We’ve had excellent communication. We feel like we have an efficient and effective plan,” Heller said.
Wayne Black, Perdue’s environmental director, said the $59 million plant will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to deal with emission issues.
“We understand there will be requirements expected of us. We want to exceed that,” Black said.
Nearly 25 million bushels of soybeans were produced by Pennsylvania farmers in 2012, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service data. The plant will be capable of crushing 340,000 tons of soybean meal a year and will have the capacity to use 17.5 million bushels of soybeans.
Cole said he hopes farmers in the state’s northern tier, north of Interstate 80, will want to grow more soybeans after recent trials that have shown success in growing the crop there.
He also said farmers could double-crop more beans on existing ground and farmers in New York state might increase their soybean acreage as well.
Sjoerd Duiker, associate professor of soil management and applied soil physics at Penn State University, talked about vertical tillage at the same crops and pesticide seminar.
Vertical tillage has become a way for farmers to break up high residue in soils, especially in no-till fields, before or after planting.
Farmers can use equipment with spikes, rotary harrows or concave discs to till at shallow depths, although each tool has its own distinct purpose.
An aeration tool, usually with rolling spikes, cuts holes into the ground around 3 inches deep, Duiker said. Depending on the type of manure being applied to soil, it can reduce ammonia emissions since some of that manure will go under ground and it will also allow more water in.
“The aeration is able to help improve infiltration,” Duiker said.
Rotary harrows can work to break up soils even more than an aeration tool, and concave discs, set at an angle, can be effective at smoothing out soil before planting.
But what’s the overall impact?
Duiker said it depends on where and when the tools are being used. He said vertical tillage can be good for established cover crops and can help prepared the soil for broadcasting seed. But he said using it in a low-residue environment is almost like tilling and might lead to erosion problems down the line.
Duiker said studies evaluating yields from no-till fields and fields with vertical tillage showed that vertical tillage had a minimal yield advantage at best and could even lead to yields decreasing.