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AGRIBUSINESS: The Next Generation Of Biofuels

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Corn Stover is the next generation of biofuels.

Stover is made up of the parts of the corn plant besides the kernels yet utilizing the stover isn’t as easy as flipping a switch.

This fall, DuPont is collecting corn stover from farms within 30 miles of Nevada.

Many think removing organic matter from fields is a detriment to soil health, but farmer Jeff Taylor doesn’t see it that way.  He said that he learned they are taking between 1.8 to two tons.

Getting the stover to the plant is an undertaking.  The energy put into transportation balances out for two reasons, according to Pioneer Agronomy Research Manager Andy Heggenstaller.

“Like corn ethanol, a lot of the fuel energy came from the sun, so it wasn’t a fossil energy, it was fixed by the crop whether in the grain for grain ethanol or in the case of cellulosic ethanol, the stalks,” Heggenstaller said.

The other reason is due to part of the corn plant that cannot be broken down to make fuel, called lignin.  Heggenstaller said he estimates about 15 to 20 percent of each stover bale is made up of lignin, which he thinks will compete with coal.

The product of 10 years’ research is set to come online next year and once operational, will produce 30 million gallons of biofuel which is well above the RFS target, he added.

Nearby farmers selling stover to DuPont as part of the 2013 program must grow their corn acres in a no-till or conservation tillage system, see yields of 180 bushels or more and be on flat land with a slope of four percent or lower.