Alfalfa growers want piece of ethanol pie

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JOHNSTON, Iowa — Seeking to demonstrate alfalfa’s potential for cellulosic ethanol production, particularly in rotations with corn, the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance and the National Corn Growers Association hosted Alfalfa/Corn Rotations for Sustainable Cellulosic Biofuels Production in Iowa June 29-30 at Pioneer’s Carver Center.

“It seems as though alfalfa is treated as the ‘red-headed step child’ when it comes to cellulosic biofuel feedstocks,” said Beth Nelson, president of the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance.

“We’re demonstrating that not only does alfalfa make an attractive option as a cellulosic biofuel feedstock, but actually provides many advantages over some of the other options being widely discussed.”

Why alfalfa?

As a cellulosic biofuel feedstock, the alfalfa/corn rotation has advantages, Nelson said.

Alfalfa is widely grown throughout the U.S. Corn Belt, prevents erosion, provides a yield boost to corn, and provides the following year’s corn crop with nitrogen needs.

Additionally, the leaves can be fractioned and used as a high protein feed source, while the remaining stems can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol.

The program featured USDA and university researchers who discussed the agronomic, economic, and mechanical considerations of alfalfa/corn production systems, as well as the areas where further research is needed.

The event’s featured speaker, Jeffrey Steiner, USDA Agricultural Research Service National Program Leader for Biomass Production Systems, discussed USDA’s strategy for ‘Growing America’s Fuels’ and gave an overview of the strategy for meeting the Renewable Fuels Standard of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022.

What’s next?

A steering committee of key industry and academic professionals will now develop an action plan.

A copy of the proceedings is available at www.alfalfa.org.

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