Corn gluten

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by seabee003, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. seabee003

    seabee003 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 86

    Why is corn gluten so expensive? It is a waste product from corn processing that has been used historically as a filler in hog feed. Is there that much extra work to create this product from the feed source?

    It becomes prohibitively expensive compared to standard pre-emergent herbicides when doing larger lawns (ie.15,000 sq ft and up).
  2. propositionjoe

    propositionjoe LawnSite Member
    Posts: 14

    It's not a 'waste product' or filler - it's a very high-value feed for livestock. High protein, very palatable. And, it doesn't work as a herbicide. At least nowhere near as well as something like prodiamine or pendimethalin or dithiopyr pre-emerge, or quinclorac post-emerge. If you have clients who absolutely won't let you use herbicides, best bet is to get their grass as thick and healthy as you can, and 'train' them to expect crabgrass and other invaders.
  3. Felco #2

    Felco #2 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 41

  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    regardless of how you interpret that article about pre-emergent qualities of some components of corn meal and that various similar components were created by modifications, doesn't change the fact that corn gluten is quality animal feed, worth money...
    Their use of the word by-product was an error on the part of the author...

    What I did learn though is that: ... "hydrolyzed proteins from corn and other grains that were shown to have higher levels of herbicidal activity..." and that ingredient is now listed in many foods for us to eat... thanks for the heads-up on our consumption of natural(manmade) herbicides...
  5. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    No it wasn't.
  6. seabee003

    seabee003 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 86

    I think there is a little confusion in the semantics of the use of waste product in my post above that I would like to clarify. I should have used by-product instead of waste product. Just because something is a by-product does not mean it is worthless. As defined by Webster: A by-product is a secondary product derived from a manufacturing process or chemical reaction. It is not the primary product or service being produced. A by-product can be useful and marketable or it can be considered waste.

    The primary products of the wet milling of corn grain are corn syrup, corn starches, and corn oil. The value of these products "pay" for the milling process. Germ meal, hulls and gluten meal are by-products of this process and each has value on its own. The key is that the process is not primarily done to create these products. Sometimes people call by-products of a process that exhibit value on their own as co-products.

    However, the point still is, as a co-product of a large scale commodity process, the use of corn gluten as a preemergent herbicide seems very expensive.

    One possibility is that the Iowa State patent specifies additional processing steps on the corn gluten meal as generated from the corn wet milling process before it is sold as the herbicide. That may very well be the case and the reason for the relatively high cost. For example, you mention "hydrolyzed " corn gluten in your note. That sounds like there may be additional steps in the process. Do you know if this is true?

    I hope this clarifies what I meant above. Thanks for the feedback.

    See for a good overview of the wet corn milling process and its primary and co- products.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2012
  7. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,583

    Income from the patent are used by Iowa State to fund more research in this area.
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    That is why I said that the use of the word was an error... it gave you the wrong impression just like it does for thousands of others...

    Webster does not define popular usage of words as much as we would like... :)
  9. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,583

    Usually hydrolysis is a chemical process in which a molecule of water molecule adds to a substance. I do not know which method is used under the patent.
    We do carry a liquid corn gluten product.
  10. seabee003

    seabee003 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 86

    I found a series of Iowa State patents. There is both corn gluten and hyrolyzed corn gluten. The hydorlysis of corn gluten is done with a series of enzymatic steps. The hydrolysis breaks the large insoluble proteins in corn gluten down into smaller peptides. This is a process similiar to how your body digests proteins in your food sources into smaller peptides so they can be adsorbed in the intestines. These extra steps coupled with the patent royalty could explain the cost (or at least most of it as I still supect there is some "green" price gouging).

    The value of the hydrolyzed corn gluten is that it is soluble in water. That gives two advantages. First it can be applied with spray equipment farmers already have. Second, the hydrolyzed corn gluten dissolved in water penetrates into the soil better. The whole corn gluten which is not soluble in water stays on the soil surface and takes a long time to penetrate into the soil to interact with seeds below the surface. The disadvantage of the hydrolyzed corn gluten is that because it is soluble in water, it washes away more quickly (but at least does not harm the environment as the nitrogens is in the form of proteins and peptides). It is probably only fully active for a few weeks but of course if applied in the spring at the right time it would suffice for a big part of the lawn weed problem as addressed by pre-emergent herbicides.

    After reading this I am wondering if it doesn't make sense to use both forms of corn gluten in the spring. The hydrolyzed for quick coverage of the crabgrass and other usually weed suspects and the whole corn gluten as a source of N with the added value that it should give some preemergent activity on a longer time frame.

    OK I now know far more about corn gluten than I ever intended. It looks like it is expensive for a reason. But the good news is that the processes are very scalable and if the demand goes up, prices should come down.

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