USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa., are investigating ways to avoid overburdening the corn market as ethanol production expands.
Researchers David Johnston and Kevin Hicks are investigating new processes using protease enzymes from microbial and fungal sources to make ethanol more efficiently.
Working with Vijay Singh, an agricultural engineer at the University of Illinois, Johnston conducted a field trial at a small wet-milling facility in Panang, Malaysia. They soaked U.S. corn in water for several hours and then applied the enzymes (provided by biotechnology company Genencor International Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif.). The scientists found that adding enzymes during processing increased starch recovery, just as it had in laboratory trials.