DuPont businesses Pioneer Hi-Bred and DuPont Industrial Biosciences are collaborating with Iowa State University in performing studies on residue to establish best practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, with an eye toward its use in cellulosic ethanol production in the near future.
Agronomic benefits of residue removal include preventing stand establishment concerns in the following crop and avoiding nitrogen tie-up to reduce additional applications. Good residue management practices are crucial to overcoming some of the challenges associated with reduced-tillage systems.
While these best management practices can help growers today, DuPont Industrial Biosciences is developing solutions for tomorrow that address the residue itself, planning to build one of the world’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefineries in Nevada, Iowa, which will require thousands of tons of stover from Iowa fields.
“Currently, the most plentiful agricultural source of ligno-cellulosic biomass for ethanol production in the U.S. is corn stover,” says Steve Mirshak, business director for DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol program. “We’re currently working with an exclusive group of growers in a pilot program to collect stover in support of the biorefinery. When completed, the plant will be fueled almost exclusively by cornstalks.”
University research suggests that at a high yield level of 200 bushels per acre or more, growers can remove up to 40 percent of stover without negatively impacting soil organic matter. DuPont officials believe that cellulosic ethanol production could become a common form of residue management in the future while providing additional value to growers for their crops.