DECATUR, Ill. — Archer Daniels Midland Company, Deere & Company and Monsanto Company have agreed to collaborate on research to explore technologies and processes to turn crop residues into feed and bioenergy products.
The companies will work together to identify environmentally and economically sustainable methods for the harvest, storage and transport of corn stover — the stalks, leaves and cobs of corn plants.
Corn stover can be used in feed for animals, as biomass to generate steam and electricity or as a cellulosic feedstock for biofuel production.
By creating feed and energy products from crop byproducts, farmers can produce more products without farming more acres, and increase the value derived from each acre.
Stover is usually left on the field, where, in proper amounts, it helps reduce soil erosion and build up soil organic matter.
A 170-bushel-per-acre corn crop, which was the average last year in Iowa, also produces about four dry tons of stover.
The USDA forecasts that in 2008, farmers will harvest 12.3 billion bushels of corn, resulting in approximately 290 million tons of stover.
In their work, the companies will address a number of complexities and challenges.
For example, stover collection rates need to be adjusted on a field-by-field basis to ensure that sufficient stover is left on the soil to reduce erosion and maintain or improve soil quality for the next season’s crop.
Also, the amount of moisture in the stover at harvest can present challenges in transportation and storage.
“As the world’s population grows, so will demand for food and energy. Using non-food feedstocks for feed and energy is one way that agriculture can apply innovation to create renewable, sustainable solutions,” said Todd Werpy, vice president of research at ADM.
“There are a number of challenges associated with harvest, collection and storage of cellulosic biomass. This collaborative effort brings together three agricultural leaders to identify and address the complexities that come with commercializing a new feedstock.”
“Expansions in biorenewable energy are possible if we are able to combine productivity and sustainability improvements in agriculture and forestry with a variety of biomass feedstocks and the most applicable conversion technologies,” said Klaus Hoehn, vice president, advanced technology and engineering for John Deere.
“We are hopeful the collaboration of our companies will lead to innovative technologies to improve collection and provisioning of biomass feedstocks, such as corn stover.”
“Advanced biotechnologies are protecting plants better than ever, helping the plants to achieve their full grain yield potential,” said Robb Fraley, chief technology officer, Monsanto Company.
“Achieving this potential also means having healthier, larger plants producing even more biomass. This provides an opportunity to convert an underutilized resource into a new source of value for growers and processors. It’s an exciting area of research to focus on.”