Leftovers from fields, orchards, and vineyards could be combined with other household garbage to make ethanol and other kinds of bioenergy.
USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists are investigating the possibilities at the agency’s Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif.
Agricultural wastes like rice straw, almond hulls, and the oversize outer leaves of iceberg lettuce – as well as municipal solid waste – would have to be pretreated before being used as a bioenergy resource. The pretreated agricultural waste could then be transferred to a biofermenter where yeasts and enzymes would be added to make ethanol.
Engineering technician David Bozzi and microbiologist Diana Franqui, (both pictured) along with research chemist Kevin Holtman are working on determining the best ways to use just water and heat to pretreat the farm wastes to keep the biorefining process as environmentally friendly as possible.