Biofuel from Corn Stover

September 22, 2009 by By Don Comis
Biofuel from Corn Stover
ARS research has shown that harvesting 40 percent of corn stover in fields of the northern Great Plains only increases soil erosion by 0.25 tons an acre per year.

(PhysOrg.com) -- How much corn crop residue, or stover, can be removed for biofuels without harming soil? An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study of a 10-mile circle around the University of Minnesota’s Morris campus offers some clues.

Dave Archer, an agricultural scientist at the ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, N.D., chose that circle area because of the university’s plans to heat its buildings with gas released by a controlled burning of corn stover -- a process called gasification.

Using the ARS Environmental Policy Integrated Climate (EPIC) model, Archer found that if farmers in that area harvested 40 percent of the stover, this would increase by only 0.25 tons an acre per year. Erosion levels could be minimized by harvesting stover from areas less susceptible to erosion, by removing stover at lower rates, and by using conservation tillage, diverse crop rotations, and other conservation cropping practices.

Archer used EPIC to estimate costs, including the expense of replacing nutrients lost from the stover removal.

The Morris study is part of the ARS Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP). ARS has scientists in 10 states involved in the project, in collaboration with universities participating in the Sun Grant Initiative funded by the U.S. departments of Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture.

Also participating in REAP is Archer’s colleague, Jane Johnson, an ARS soil scientist at Morris. Johnson and colleagues at Morris are studying whether returning the co-products of gasification to the can replace lost carbon and nutrients and help prevent erosion. If so, then additional stover could be harvested from soils treated with co-products.

Provided by USDA Agricultural Research Service

Explore further: Research aims for more efficiency in harvest and handling

Related Stories

Research aims for more efficiency in harvest and handling

September 27, 2006

Kevin Shinners wants farmers to put less energy into harvesting and handling biofuel crops - less fuel, less time and less labor. As a field machinery specialist, Shinners has worked to improve the efficiency of harvesting ...

A model to measure soil health in the era of bioenergy

November 19, 2008

One of the biggest threats to today's farmlands is the loss of soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil organic matter (SOM) from poor land-management practices. The presence of these materials is essential as they do everything ...

Managing carbon loss

December 3, 2008

As the United States continues to develop alternative energy methods and push towards energy independence, cellulosic-based ethanol has emerged as one of the most commercially viable technologies. Corn stover remains the ...

Recommended for you

Global index proposed to avoid delays on climate policies

August 4, 2015

Professor David Frame, Director of Victoria's Climate Change Research Institute (CCRI), has co-authored a paper published today in the high profile international scientific journal Nature Climate Change. The paper argues ...

Researchers investigate increased ocean acidification

August 3, 2015

The primary cause of global ocean acidification is the oceanic absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere. Although this absorption helps to mitigate some of the effects of anthropogenic climate change, it has resulted in a reduction ...

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.