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Enogen corn, used in ethanol production, features purple kernels. (Photo courtesy of Midwest AgEnergy)

Enogen for N.D. ethanol secured for '18

FARGO, N.D. — Syngenta has secured all of their needs for Enogen corn for 2018 for three North Dakota ethanol plants — a variety genetically designed to add enzymes friendly to ethanol production.

About 250 growers in North Dakota will grow the Enogen corn, with its one-third blue kernels, for ethanol in 2018, up from 85 growers in 2017, says Chris Tingle, head of Enogen commercial operations based at Minnetonka, Minn.

Tingle estimates that about 50,000 acres of Enogen corn will be grown in North Dakota for the purpose of ethanol production. Those commitments were completed in January. The company is also contracting Enogen for ethanol plants in the Fairmont, Minn., area, as well as with plants at Ottertail and Morris, in Minnesota.

Separately, Syngenta has also contracted with numerous beef and dairy producers in South Dakota, Minnesota and other major cattle states to purchase Enogen seed for corn for beef cattle and silage for dairy cows.

Premium range

In the ethanol program, growers pay no more for the Enogen seed than for comparable hybrids that don't include the enzyme characteristic. They must agree to such things as maintaining border rows and keeping grain isolated in storage to ensure it goes to its intended use.

Farmers who sign up to grow Enogen for ethanol are paid an average of 40 cents a bushel in premiums by the ethanol producers. Actual premiums may range from about 35 cents to 45 cents, Tingle says, with the highest levels to compensate for longer on-farm storage and maintenance.

North Dakota's "cooperating partner" ethanol plants at Underwood, Spiritwood and Casselton. They mix in the Enogen corn at a 15 percent level with 85 percent regular No. 2 yellow corn. The Enogen corn uses genetic modification to deliver an enzyme that the ethanol plants would otherwise need to purchase. Operating partner plants use the Enogen on either four- or six-year contracts. Farmer contracts are year-to-year.

Beyond the 40 cents, farmers in the ethanol program can agree to use Syngenta-only corn herbicides and fungicides and also receive an additional 10-cent per bushel "ethanol grower advantage" premium, Tingle says.

Initially, that premium is paid by Syngenta itself. Farmers must agree to that program up-front and declare acres and product purchases through a contracting software and submit to random audits.

About 85 percent of the 2017 growers signed up for the additional 10 percent premium program in North Dakota. In 2018, about 50 percent enrolled for the extra premium, but on a higher number of acres.

Cattle feed

Enzymes that aid in ethanol production also are beneficial for starch digestibility in the rumen of beef or dairy animals.

Syngenta launched Enogen for cattle in 2017 and is shooting for 150,000 to 200,000 acres of production in 2018 nationwide. About 12,000 to 13,000 acres of those are in South Dakota, western Minnesota and southern Minnesota. There is no market premium or bonus premium for this.

Duane Martin, Syngenta corn and soybean commercial traits manager for North America, says feed research results have been positive. University of Nebraska feeding studies show an average 5 percent feed efficiency gain using rolled Enogen corn versus non-Enogen varieties. Those trials showed average feed efficiency gains ranging from 3 percent to 13 percent, he says. Similarly, Kansas State University trials indicate benefits are true for whole grain, dry-rolled or steam-flaked beef cattle feed.

The company's silage quality modeling through internal research at Rock River Laboratory Inc., Watertown, Wis., indicates the "potential for increased milk production" that averages 3 percent to 5 percent, Martin says.

For both ethanol and livestock feed purposes, Enogen growers agree not to sell Enogen into the general commercial market. In cases where a livestock operator sells out, they agree to work with Syngenta to find another approved feeder or an approved ethanol option.