Ethanol byproduct produces green results

July 2, 2008
Dried Distiller's Grain
Tons of distiller's dried grains being held in storage at the ethanol plant in West Burlington, Iowa. Credit: Photo by Steven Vaughn

Commercial flower and plant growers know all too well that invasive, ubiquitous weeds cause trouble by lowering the value and deterring healthy growth of potted ornamental plants. To control weeds, many commercial nursery owners resort to the expensive practice of paying workers to hand-weed containers. Some growers use herbicides, but efficacy of herbicides is questionable on the wide range of plant species produced in nurseries, and many herbicides are not registered for use in greenhouses.

Enter "dried distillers grains with solubles", or DDGS. DDGS, a byproduct of converting corn to fuel ethanol, is typically used as livestock feed. Rick A. Boydston, Harold P. Collins, and Steve Vaughn, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, undertook a research study on the use of DDGS as a weed deterrent on potted ornamentals. The study results, published in the February 2008 issue of HortScience, evaluated the use of DDGS as a soil amendment to suppress weeds in container-grown ornamentals.

Researchers applied DDGS two ways: to the soil surface, and mixed into the potting media of transplanted ornamentals. Applied to the soil surface after transplanting, DDGS caused no injury to plants. According to Dr. Boydston, an agronomist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), "grains applied to the surface at rates that gave good coverage of the soil (800 and 1600 g/m2) reduced the number of common chickweed and annual bluegrass. Weed control was not perfect, but could reduce the amount of hand-weeding typically required."

When mixed into the potting media, however, dried distillers grains were toxic to transplanted rose, coreopsis, and phlox plants. Researchers concluded that DDGS may be useful for reducing weed emergence and growth in container-grown ornamentals when applied to the soil surface at transplanting. Dr. Boydston noted that additional research is needed to identify and confirm the safety (of using DDGS) to other ornamentals and effectiveness of controlling other types of weeds.

Dried distillers grains are becoming more readily available as ethanol production in the U.S. increases. The push to produce ethanol, a cleaner-burning alternative to gasoline, has gained interest as gasoline prices continue to soar. As production increases, finding new uses for byproducts like DDGS becomes more critical. Dr. Boydston sees the results of this and similar ARS studies as a win/win for ethanol producers and the agriculture industry, noting, "identifying new uses for byproducts likes distillers grains could increase the profitability of ethanol production".

The complete study and abstract are available on the HortScience electronic journal web site: hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/43/1/191

Source: American Society for Horticultural Science

Explore further: Pigs gain the same with corn-ethanol co-product as with corn-soybean meal diet, says study

Related Stories

Feeding corn germ to pigs does not affect growth performance

April 1, 2013

Inclusion of corn germ in swine diets can reduce diet costs, depending on the local cost of corn germ and other ingredients. Recent research conducted at the University of Illinois indicates that corn germ can be included ...

Helping pigs to digest phosphorus

July 17, 2012

Phosphorus is a vital nutrient for pig growth, but pigs do not always digest it well. Research conducted at the University of Illinois has determined how adding various levels of the enzyme phytase to the diet improves how ...

Recommended for you

Just how good (or bad) is the fossil record of dinosaurs?

August 28, 2015

Everyone is excited by discoveries of new dinosaurs – or indeed any new fossil species. But a key question for palaeontologists is 'just how good is the fossil record?' Do we know fifty per cent of the species of dinosaurs ...

Fractals patterns in a drummer's music

August 28, 2015

Fractal patterns are profoundly human – at least in music. This is one of the findings of a team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and Harvard University ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.