WERA1016: Adaptation, Quality and Management of Sustainable Cellulosic Biofuel Crops in the West
- October 01, 2010 to September 30, 2015
- Administrative Advisor(s):
- NIFA Reps:
Statement of Issue(s) and Justification:Land and natural resources are abundant and diverse in the western region. Water is the most limiting resource in this arid or semi-arid environment. The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) suggested that agriculture will need to contribute nearly 1 billion tons and forestry 368 million tons of biomass annually to meet the nations' needs for cellulosic biofuels (Perlack, et.al., 2005). Primary biomass crops identified were corn stover, small grain straws, grains, perennial grasses (CRP and switchgrass) and woody crops. DOE Roadmap details amounts and regions where feedstocks are expected to be harvested (DOE, 2007). Unfortunately the report only lists woody biomass and forestry trimmings as western contributions, ignoring other biomass types. The USDA Energy Plan includes annual and perennial cellulosic crops as dedicated bioenergy feedstocks nationwide (USDA, 2008).
Traditionally western growers harvest annual grain crops, leaving straw residue in the field for erosion control or bale just enough for winter bedding. Perennial grasses and legumes would be grazed, harvested for hay or silage, and fed to livestock. Some western hay is exported, with the Pacific Rim and east coast as primary customers. Growers are paid for higher quality hay and have learned to meet market demands through multiple seasonal harvests, even if tonnage is low. Biofuel feedstock production requires a different approach, even though many of the same crops would be grown. High amounts of cellulose, a carbohydrate based cell wall fiber, is most important in second generation biorefineries. Hemicellulose is of lower importance, although bioenergy products are also produced from this carbohydrate based cell wall component. Lignin, a non carbohydrate, is part of the biomass primary cell wall and linked to lower animal performance. However, lignin in advanced generation biorefineries is used as a bioenergy resource, primarily to produce electricity for the biorefinery. Feedstocks for advanced generation biorefineries therefore requires a different level of cell wall composition and fiber quality compared to forage for animals. This should result in fewer seasonal cuttings, higher harvestable tonnages (or higher biomass yields), reduction in costs of harvesting, equipment repairs/replacement and provide for a stable market.
The goal of this project is to provide new results and recommendations, without duplication of other western biofuel projects, to assess selection and management of dedicated cellulosic biofuel and bioenergy crops (including CRP) grown sustainably by growers for western biorefineries. Today the western region does not have a designated cellulosic commercial feedstock producing operation. Western land grant universities should accept leadership and partner with private companies and biorefineries, making this energy independence option available for western growers.
Additional linkages: Proposed partnerships and collaborations include but are not limited to: 1. research and Extension forage agronomy faculty from the following targeted states: AL, AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, TX, UT, WA and WY, 2. economics faculty from the targeted states, 3. USDA-ARS and USDA-NRCS collaborators from the targeted states, 4. innovative and traditional western forage (and woody) grower organizations, and 5. with commercial bio-refineries, such as Pacific Ethanol and Zea Chem, both located at Boardman, OR.
- Compare cropping systems such as annual, perennial, cool-season, and warm-season cellulosic crops and combinations with oil seed crops for biofuel potential in representative environments of the western region.
- Measure biomass feedstock production, energy conservation, and economics with various management treatments at diverse locations in the region.
- Determine production and economic sustainability and carbon sequestration of dedicated biofuel feedstocks.
- Develop regional based bioenergy and transitional grants to expand resources.
- Explore regional private-public partnerships with the emerging biorefinery industry.
Procedures and ActivitiesIndividual, multi-state and regional field, greenhouse and laboratory studies will be initiated or continued, investigating a range of annual and perennial, cool and warm-season dedicated biofuel crops. Field studies may be conducted on- or off-station. A broad range of selected genotypes and varieties, irrigation water quality and practices is encouraged at each participating location. Rotational effects and carbon sequestration are important variables when determining sustainable practices. Monitoring weather and environmental conditions is important in understanding crop adaptability and biofuel potential. Both production and economic models could be developed for regional biofuel production. Our approach requires a higher level of cooperation and coordination among targeted states and stakeholders. To better establish comprehensive regional projects we have planned for additional time at the annual meeting.
Teams will be formed to identify fundable research questions and objectives resulting in submitted grants to funding agencies, including but not limited to DOE (biomass program), USDA (biomass/biofuel, risk management) and US DOT (Sun Grant).
Partners will participate in biomass needs assessment for production and quality. They should be involved in all aspects of research and/or Extension activities. The goal is to provide sustainable biomass from different western environments under various management strategies using multiple feedstocks grown dryland or irrigated.
Expected Outcomes and Impacts:
- Increased collaboration and coordination of cellulosic feedstock development projects among WERA members from targeted states
- Acreages of multiple feedstocks are expected to be grown commercially in the region
- State and regional biofuel educational materials and manuscripts will be produced
- Increased participation from grower organizations and/or bio-refiners are anticipated in biofuel grants, research projects, practical and educational materials
Project Participation:Include a completed Appendix E form
Educational efforts for the cellulosic biofuel program will be planned and implemented using the Logic Model. The research activities discussed above will be directly connected to the Extension program. Applied research trials, coordinated and conducted across several western states will be used to generate information on how to grow biofuel crops most efficiently and economically. This research will form the knowledge base for Extension efforts. The target audience will include agricultural producers, crop consultants, federal and state agency personnel, agricultural organizations/groups, private industry, and others interested in cellulosic biofuels. Outputs will include field days, workshops, seminars, multi-state Extension bulletins, and articles in local and regional agricultural publications (popular press). The short-term outcome of the educational effort will be increased knowledge and understanding of cellulosic biofuel production. Growers will use this information to make management decisions on their farms. As the cellulosic biofuel industry in the West gains momentum, we expect the medium- to long-term to see a change in behavior through farmers incorporating these crops into their cropping plan.
A chair will be elected by the committee membership and serve for one year. A vice-chair will be elected by the membership for one year then automatically assume chair the following year. A secretary will be elected by the membership for one year then automatically assumes vice-chair then chair. The officers and Administrative Advisor will form an executive committee for the group. Annual meetings will be moved around the region and normally hosted by the chair at his (her) location. We encourage a two day meeting held annually during the summer biomass growth period (June, July or August). A field tour should be included on the first day, highlighting ongoing feedstock biomass research and Extension activities at that location. Participants will use the remaining meeting to report results of ongoing projects, to enhance planning of additional research and Extension projects, and to develop volunteer teams for grant development.
Literature Cited:Perlack, R.D., L.L. Wright, A.F. Turhollow, R.L. Graham, B.J. Stokes, and D.C. Erbach, 2005. Biomass as feedstock for bioenergy and bioproducts industry: the technical feasibility of a billion-ton annual supply. DOE, USDA. Available at http://feedstockreview.ornl.gov/pdf/billion_ton_vision.pdf
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 2008. Strategic Energy Science Plan for Research, Education, and Extension. 13 pgs.
U.S. Dept of Energy. 2007. Roadmap for bioenergy and biobased products in the United States. 46 pgs.
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