Biofuel from Corn Stover

Sep 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: Implications for the fate of green fertilizers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A model to measure soil health in the era of bioenergy

Nov 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

Dec 03, 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 ...

Research aims for more efficiency in harvest and handling

Sep 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 ...

Recommended for you

Implications for the fate of green fertilizers

1 hour ago

The use of green fertilizers is a practice that has been around since humans first began growing food, but researchers are warning that modern techniques for the creation of these fertilizers could have implications ...

Ditching coal a massive step to climate goal: experts

2 hours ago

Phasing out coal as an electricity source by 2050 would bring the world 0.5 degrees Celsius closer to the UN's targeted cap for climate warming, an analysis said on the eve of Tuesday's UN climate summit.

Monitoring heavy metals using mussels

5 hours ago

A research team in Malaysia has concluded that caged mussels are useful for monitoring heavy metal contamination in coastal waters in the Strait of Johore. Initial results indicate more pollution in the eastern ...

Climate change report identifies 'the most vulnerable'

6 hours ago

Extreme weather events leave populations with not enough food both in the short- and the long-term. A new report by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at the School of Geography and the Environment ...

User comments : 0