The January 2017 edition of Blades features the articles:
CenUSA Bioenergy Engineers Cut Switchgrass Drying Time by 50%
Models Predict Large Water Quality Improvements from Perennials
Switchgrass – Newest Product in the $2.5 Billion Cat Litter Market?
Extension and Outreach: Takin’ it to the streets and fields
Plant Breeders Increase Switchgrass Yield by 40%
New Market Place Opportunities for Biobased Products
The January 2017 edition of Blades features the articles:
The March 2016 edition of Blades features the articles:
Energy Company Total Makes Investment in Renmatix
Second Generation Biofuels Reduce Emissions
Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants
Cultivating Higher Yielding Scientists
The RFS: What’s the Real Impact to Food and Fuel Prices?
CenUSA Bioenergy to Launch MOOC
The December 2015 edition of Blades features the articles:
FDC Enterprises Building the Perennial Grass Energy Supply Chain
CenUSA Perennial Grass Research "Yields" Impressive Results
Planting Perennial Grasses in the Midwest Reduce Water Pollution
To Grow or Not to Grow: New Switchgrass Decision Tool
100Grannies March on Washington
Harvesting Bales from Start to Finish
The October 2015 edition of Blades features the articles:
Switchgrass: Two Decades of Progress
Listening in with USDA’s Bill Goldner
Could Bioenergy Perennial Grasses Help Pollinators?
C6 BioFarm iPad Game Launched, Ken Vogel – Leading Progress on Switchgrass
Commercial Corner: AgSolver – Return on Investment Farming
The June 2015 edition of Blades features the articles:
University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners Win International Award
CenUSA Summer Internship Program: Proving Ground For Future Scientists
Bioenergy and the Great State of Nebraska
Greening Airports - Iowa Airport to Plant Prairie Grasses to Improve Water Quality
CenUSA’s Youth Program at Purdue - Growing a Brighter Future
Commercial Corner: LaVon Schiltz – Building Biorenewables
The April 2015 edition of Blades features the articles:
Toward progress on nutrient management
Chevrolet and Ducks Unlimited pair up for grasslands
Switchgrass: Better bedding for broilers?
CenUSA releases first-ever decision support tool for switchgrass
The California carbon offset market: directing the changing landscape
Managing carbon like coffee cups
The September 2014 edition of Blades features the articles:
CenUSA Commercialization Objective Update from Rob Mitchell
Energizing Cows: Potential Market for Switchgrass
ADM teams with CenUSA Bioenergy on Treeless Paper Products
Switchgrass Superstar - Now Commercially Available
Virtually Growing the C6 Biofarm
Renmatix: Building a Bridge to Renewable Biofuels.
The June 2014 edition of Blades features the articles:
A Meeting of the Minds
Mobile Apps Make Sustainability Learning Fun
From Switchgrass to Science Fairs: The Brian Prchal Story
Commercial Corner: Vermeer Corporation - Global Innovator
Getting Our Word Out
There are no upcoming events at this time.
In the Media
If you are interested in how perennial grasses can be part of a sustainable transformation in Midwestern agriculture you will find this brief article fascinating.
Authors Stephen John (Agricultural Watershed Istitute) and Gregory McIsaac discuss how the American Midwest can move from a landscape dominated by row crop production to "multifunctional agriculture" featuring biomass crops.
Multifunctional Agriculture: A New Paradigm of Mixed Cropping [Solutions Journal 8(1)66-76 Jan. 2017] is available online at http://ow.ly/VOqB30cEEAU @SolutionsMag.
Read "Research focuses on reclaiming strip-mine sites for biofuel crop production" (Penn State News 5/23) and learn more about Marvin Hall's work with switchgrass as a better way of restoring land that had previously been both deep mined and strip mined.
Lancaster Farming shared "Grad Students Hope to Reduce Poultry’s Impact on Bay Water." (5/12/17)
It might be possible for producers to create a carbon-neutral production system where poultry bedding would be grown on farm and then harvested for use in the farm's broiler houses.
Penn State graduate student Erica Rogers' early results suggest that by following some new practices poultry producers could lower the impact of poultry raising on the Chesapeake Bay.
Learn more about this study on bedding alternatives including switchgrass, miscanthus, and willow here.
CenUSA CO-PD Jason Hill (Obj. 4 - System Performance) and his team have announced the availability of "InMAP: Intervention model for air pollution: Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Tool to
Understand the Consequences." The work was partially funded by CenUSA.
Links to the paper, published in the journal PLOS ONE and a page describing its capabilities are available at:
Our USDA-NIFA AFRI CAP colleagues at New Bio have released a new fact sheet, Bipolaris Leaf Spot on Switchgrass: Bipolaris species.
The author is Kittikun Songsomboon with co-authors Dr. J. Hansen and Dr. G. Bergstrom, Dr. D. Viands (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University). The fact sheet details the symptoms and signs, life cycle, and management strategies for the disease Bipolaris infection.
Access the fact sheet here.
The future may well include annuals and perennials in a beneficially mixed landscape. According the "Meet the Plant that is Bridging Renewable Energy, Rural Development, and Environmental Benefits*" the central US may soon see perennial and annual crops supporting each other in a vibrant landscape.
The US DOE has also included a short video "Bioenergy in a multifunctional landscape" available here.
*Article and video originally published by the U.S. Department of Energy in the public domain.
CenUSA Bioenergy's Extension and Outreach Objective has just released a flyer/infographic detailing the work and important results generated by our research and Extension/Outreach teams since August 2011, and yes it's an impressive summary available here.
For switchgrass to make inroads as a viable ag product it has to solve someone's problem. Erosion control may be a problem that switchgrass is well suited to helping solve in the American Midwest.
Lear more in "Is Switchgrass the Answer?" available here.
CenUSA collaborator D.K. Lee, in a study funded by the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I and the Energy Biosciences Institute says:
“We have shown that farmers can grow corn as a companion crop with switchgrass to generate revenue in the establishment year,” [...] “The following year, switchgrass emerges early like other perennial grasses starting from crowns.”
Learn more about corn and switchgrass and their potential for positive co-existance in "Earn cash by establishing switchgrass."
CenUSA Bioenergy has released its latest quarterly report covering research and extension/outreach activities between February 1, 2016 to April 30, 2016. Learn what our federally-funded (USDA-NIFA) project has been up to.
This report covers the activities of each of our ten objectives, including our Commercialization Objective.
In August 2016, CenUSA Boenergy had the opportunity to participate in the International Biochar Initiative conference held August 22-26, 2016 at Oregon State University in Corvallis. As part of the event we prepared a 2016 Biochar Flyer highlighting CenUSA's work with biochar. You can check out the flyer here.
Bioeconomy stalwart Biofuels Digest has launched a new publication, the NUU Digest. One of their first articles focuses on a CenUSA favorite, biochar. You can find the article, An Overview of the current Biochar and Activated Carbon Markets at http://biofuelsdigest.com/nuudigest/2016/10/11/an-overview-of-the-current-biochar-and-activated-carbon-markets/.
Congratulations to Iowa State's "Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-Based Cropping Systems" team for being honored by the USDA for their transdisciplinary research, extension, and education projects in nine states to identify strategies to make corn production climate resilient.
Learn more about this award here and learn more about this great project .
The USDA has just released a report with the data on how much the biobased products industry is contributing to the U.S. economy.
Iin 2014, the total was $393 billion in value added to the economy and 4.223 million jobs. The multiplier effect of the activity show that for every 1,000 jobs in the biobased industry supported 1,760 additional jobs in other parts of the economy. The article adds perspective on what this means to the overall economy and is a quick and informative read.
Learn more at from Biofuels Digest.
The Flooding in Iowa Project is a series of web-based videos designed to educate local officials and the general public about floodplains, flood risks, and basic floodplain management principles. The videos are divided into five categories: Introduction to the NFIP, Understanding Flooding, Floodplain Mapping, Floodplain Regulation, and Flood Insurance. The tabs located on the top of this web page take you to each of these categories where you will find the related videos and participant materials.
Use this three minute video to familiarize yourself with the navigation of the website, website features, and the resources provided through the Flooding in Iowa Project.
Sometimes people just have enough. The truly motivated take pen to paper which is just what CenUSA Co-Project Director and Director of Iowa State University's Bioeconomy Institute Robert Brown has done.
In an op-ed piece in the Des Moines Register (8/31), Biofuels are worse than gasoline? Creative accounting leads to claim, Brown takes to task those who would claim that conventional gasoline is less environmentally harmful than biofuels.
Biochar 2016: August 22-25, 2016, Oregon State University, Corvallis
Experience the Synergy
Over the last several years, researchers have helped open up many promising avenues for biochar market development in North America. Likewise, many entrepreneurs and small business owners have made investments to develop commercial markets. With so much research being published on biochar (over 5000 publications in 2015 alone!), there is a need to bring together these two groups to share information, lessons learned, and to solicit ideas on the pathway forward for biochar commercial development. The US Biochar Initiative and Sustainable Obtainable Solutions aims to bring together stakeholders in the applied biochar research community and the private sector to further biochar market development.
**Early bird extended to July 29th! – Register now to take advantage of discounted rates!
Is switchgrass a potential feed source for cattle? CenUSA has been investigating the potential of switchgrass as cattle feeding supplement and now we see that our northern neighbors are up to the same thing.
Ontario (Canada) farmers Kees and Yvonne Van Esveld have been experimenting with switchgrass as ration supplement in the dairy operation. You can learn more her in this brief article from the Ontario Farmer.
CenUSA's switchgrass and cattle resources include:
"Energizing Cows: Potential Market for Switchgrass" (BLADES Newsletter)
Is increased biomass production What do we need to know about increased biomass production?
As production of bioproducts and biofuels from agricultural biomass becomes increasingly popular as part of the solution towards to a lower carbon world, scientists must develop a greater understanding of the effects of increased biomas planting.
The journal article Biogeochemical Research Priorities for Sustainable Biofuel and Bioenergy Feedstock Production in the Americas*, looks at the gaps in research on biogeochemical processes and ecosystem sustainability related to biomass production.
* Environmental Management
December 2015, Volume 56, Issue 6, pp 1330–1355 DOI: 10.1007/s00267-015-0536-7
June 28, 2016 - CenUSA updates Switchgrass Production Tool.
We have updated our Switchgrass Decision Tool. Click here to access the latest version (6/28/16) of the Tool Worksheet.
To learn more about To Grow or not to Grow: A Tool for Comparing Returns to Switchgrass for Bioenergy with Annual Crops and CRP click here
This tool is intended to give producers a guide to understanding best management practices for switchgrass production and also to compare the expected returns to switchgrass production with several alternative land uses.
The tool uses a worksheet format to allow producers to:
- Calculate Production Estimates
- Compare Per-Acre Net Returns
From Biomass Magazine comes a story about using biomass to generate electricity in the UK, "ElectraTherm generates biomass power in the UK."
The biofeedstock is wood chips. Could this fly with perennial grass pellets?
rom the USDA comes the news of $21 million in new funding to support the development of regional systems in sustainable bioenergy and biobased products, and education and training for the next generation of scientists.
The goal is to expand availability of renewable, sustainable goods and energy. This funding is available through the USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The initiative is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
For the 2016 fiscal year, the AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts challenge area is soliciting applications that focus on the following priorities:
- Regional Bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs), which support the production and delivery of regionally-appropriate sustainable biomass feedstocks for bioenergy and bioproducts. While the focus of CAPs will be on feedstocks, competitive proposals must present the feedstock development and production in the context of comprehensive regional sustainable bioenergy and bioproducts supply chain systems.
- Investing in America's scientific corps: Preparing a new generation of students, faculty, and a workforce for emerging opportunities in bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy
Letters of intent are required by July 14, 2016, and the closing date for this opportunity is September 22, 2016. Application deadlines vary by program area.
Read find the full funding opportunity announcement here.
The USDA will be accepting new applications for incentive funding to farmers and foresters who grow nad harvest biomass for sustainable energy and biobased products. Enrollment takes place from MAy 23 - June 6, 2016.
Learn more in this announcement from the Farm Service Agency.
Biochar has always been a big part of the CenUSA vision so we jumped at the opportunity to co-sponsor Biochar 2016: The Synergy of Science and Industry: Biochar’s Connection to Ecology, Soil, Food, and Energy.
The event is being put on by the US Biochar Initiative and Sustainable Obtainable Solutions and will be held in Corvallis, Oregon August 22-25, 2016.
Who should attend: are you a biochar producer, farmer, forester, policy maker, industry professional, entrepreneur, student or interested citizen? Then this event is for you.
Congratulation to our Minnesota Extension Master Gardener / Citizen Scientists for their "Search for Excellence in Consumer or Commercial Horticulture-Minnesota" award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents!
Preliminary results show biochar had some beneficial effect on certain crop performance in poor (low nutrient) soils, and informally, volunteers observed biochar-amended soils were less compacted.
You can learn more about the work of our Master Gardener/Citizen Scientists at:
- University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Biochar Research Summary (4:15 video) https://vimeo.com/album/3825290/video/111655127
- Extension Master Gardener's CenUSA Biochar Demonstration Gardens: Is biochar a good soil amendment for home gardens? (2014 ) https://cenusa.iastate.edu/files/2014_cenusa_master_gardener_final_report_.pdf
The end of the semester is not always roses, sometimes you have to so goodbye and good luck.
CenUSA has had the good fortune of having excellent interns from Iowa State's Greenlee College of Journalism to help us with our BLADES newsletter and social media outlets. This year we have to say thanks, goodbye and good luck to Ali Lenger and Jake Miller. Ali and Jake did an excellent job of helping us publicize CenUSA's work in the emerging bioeconomy and we were lucky to have them as part of our team.
We asked Jake and Ali to share some of the wisdom they acquired while with us to share with students who in their footsteps as journalism/public relations interns. Here is their story:
CenUSA collaborator Akwasi Boateng and his ARS Sustainable Biofuels and Coproducts Unit at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania is hard at work advancing the potential of biomass as a feedstock in the production of bio-oil. Learn more in Bringing up Better Biofuel.
The May edition of our BLADES newsletter is available. We have articles featuring:
- Lignin - Is there a market?
- CenUSA's own pioneering woman in agriculture
- Switchgrass safety
- Genera Energy
Catch these stories an more here
Our USDA-NIFA colleagues at NewBio have made us aware of a new USDA funded opportunity for Ag producers. According to NewBio, "Up to $44 million will be made available to farmers, ranchers and businesses through the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant program."
The funding focuses on assisting "[...] viable Independent Producers, Agricultural Producer Groups, Farmer and Rancher Cooperatives, and Majority-Controlled Producer-Based Businesses in starting or expanding value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of Value-Added Agricultural Products.
The application deadline is July 1, 2016. Electronic applications are permitted via http://www.grants.gov only, and must be received before midnight Eastern Time, June 24, 2016. Find out more via the Fed. Reg. website.
Biofuels industry media heavyweight Biofuels Digest featured CenUSA collaborator Renmatix today.
The story features 16 slides that focus on just how this technology licensor sees its clients capturing the bio-based sugar market in Fast & Flexible: The Digest's 2016 Multi-Slide Guide to Renmatix.
Lignin has been seen as a bioeconomy problem for a long time. Now, it looks like some young scientists at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education have come up with a new way to commercialize lignin.
Learn about this exciting new approach in Student Startup Turning Heads by Utilizing Biofuel Waste for Good.
CenUSA's Extension Objective in collaboration with eXtension has released it's first commercialization case study.
The case study features CenUSA commercialization collaborator Renmatix and its patented technology for cost-effective production of industrial sugars from cellulosic biomass including perennial grasses.
Click here to read "Renmatix Processes Biomass into Sugars for Industrial Use".
As article in Biofuels Digest touts the work of Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists who are helping to crack the 'lignin barrier' currently hampering increased biofuels production.
ORNL researchers say they have made a "better thermoplastic" by taking out the styrene and using lignin instead. Learn all about this new thermoplastic called ABL, short for acrylonitrile butadiene in "ORNL researchers invent tougher plastic with 50 percent renewable content."
Note: We will be featuring an article in our June BLADES newsletter on the commercial potential of lignin.
Congratulations to our NEWBio colleagues at Penn State University on their recent first harvest of 34 acres of fast-growing shrub willow from a Penn State demonstration field. You can learn more in the article "Experimental biomass harvest a step toward sustainable, biofuels-powered future." Click here to read the entire article.
From the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) comes the news that an assistant research specialist has found a way to potentially improve the process of producing fuel from switchgrass and other forms of cellulosic biomass using yeast.
Can switchgrass production aid in the fight to improve water quality? Yes, according to a new study by the Argonne National Laboratory and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO).
You can learn more about the study, "Identifying and Mitigating Potential Nutrient and Sediment Hot Spots under a Future Scenario in the Missouri River Basin" here, or view the entire press release or head into the weeds and get a copy of the entire report.
From the University of Wisconsin's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences comes a story about lignin and its potential to provide value and not barriers. See what scientists at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center are up to in "The Future, Unzipped."
New research from Iowa State University shows significant portions of Iowa farmland consistently produce yields that fall short of the cost of the inputs required to grow crops. It may make more sense to change how those unprofitable acres are used, according to ISU agronomists.
CenUSA has been interested in the concept of "marginal land" since the inception of our project as our vision calls for production of perennial grasses on land that is marginal for row crop production.
inBiofuels Digest (1/21) has a story on the US Navy's efforts to 'green the fleet' in The Great Green Fleet Sails. There are a number of interesting take aways to the story, but getting costs down by a factor of 13 really caught our eye!
The new year is for learning. Maybe you will learn something new in this article from the Renewable Energy Network, "17 Answers for Your Burning Questions About Biofuels, Renewable Chemicals, Biomass and More." Read the full article here.
The article provides a definition for "marginal land," a topic dear to CenUSA Bioenergy.
CenUSA collaborator Emily Heaton's work with the University of Iowa has been prominently featured in a guest editorial, "Iowa is a place for climate leadership" in the Cedar Rapids Gazette (12/27/15).
Johnathan Hladik, the Rural Policy Director at the Center for Rural Affairs (http://www.cfra.org) discusses the work being done at the University of Iowa to introduce miscanthus as a source of energy for the University's power plant. Emily Heaton, an assistant professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University and a member of CenUSA's Sustainable Feedstock Production Systems objective has been heavily involved in the University of Iowa's project.
You can learn more here.
We are excited to learn that switchgrass has a higher calling even beyond our CenUSA vision. In fact, this hearty perennial may have a positive impact on the development of future crops.
Understanding how microbes promote prairie grasses to grow in nutrient-deficient, marginal soils could have an impact on developing forage and crops, according to researchers at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Oklahoma.
Read more in "Switchgrass key to future plant hardiness?". The AGRI-VIEW article is freely available here.
Is there some biochar in the BLT's future?
According to this latest report on the ever-growing uses for biochar, the ubiquitous by-product of pyrolysis can "have considerable advantages for greenhouse tomato growers".
The report "Closing the Loop: Use of Biochar Produced from Tomato Crop Green waste as a Substrate for Soilless, Hydroponic Tomato Production" is available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/50/10/1572.abstract
The University of Northern Iowa's Tallgrass Prairie Center recently concluded the Prairie Power Project and has released the final project report.
The project studied biomass production of four different native species seed mixes over three different soil types on non-prime agricultural land on a production scale over 5 years. Additionally, wildlife habitat and soil carbon sequestration were studied at the site, and in 2012 all of the material was harvested, processed, and test burned in the Cedar Falls Utilities power plant.
Information about the project and the final report are available on the project website at: http://www.tallgrassprairiecenter.org/prairie-energy/prairie-power-project-final-report-and-brochure.
Learn what Iowa State University's BioCentury Research Farm can do for industrial clients and researchers in this recent article: BCRF's Biomass Preparation Services are in High Demand.
Have biofuels been overhyped? Yes, says CenUSA co-project director Robert Brown:
“Advanced biofuels were overhyped in 2007. They weren’t ready, but government policy and venture capitalists pushed for immediate commercialization instead of the kind of R&D that would have brought the technology to maturity.”
But in Brown's assessment, Brown sees a brighter future for biofuels. You can read the full story in "The Fits and Starts of Biofuel" [12/17/15, Laboratory Equipment.
CenUSA Bioenergy has released a new switchgrass cost production tool for producers.*
To Grow or not to Grow: A Tool for Comparing Returns to Switchgrass for Bioenergy with Annual Crops and CRP
This tool is intended to give producers a guide to understanding best management practices for switchgrass production and also to compare the expected returns to switchgrass production with several alternative land uses.
The tool uses a worksheet format to allow producers to:
- Calculate Production Estimates
- Compare Per-Acre Net Returns
Can bioenergy crops add value to the landscape? This question needs to be answered as nations increase their biomass to energy portfolio and the risk of climate change induced flooding grows.
Attempting to provide some early answers the British government has released "Energy crops and floodplain flows." The report concludes:
"In certain locations, new energy crop plantations could potentially provide a flood risk management function, an economic return and additional environmental benefits."
CenUSA is pleased to announce that Aaron Shane, freshman in Ag and Bio Engineering at Iowa State University is the grand prize winner ($50) of our November 2015 Harvest Month Photo Contest. Aaron's photo, Dusk at Catherine's narrowly beat out runner-up Tennessee State University professor Jason de Koff's photo.
We want to thank everyone who participated in our contest for their support of the CenUSA vision.
Harvest Month Photo Contest Winner
Catherine's at Dusk - Aaron Shane
Harvest Month Photo Contest Runner Up
Harvet Eve - Jason de Koff
CenUSA's Outreach and Extension Team, with the assistance of Co-Project Director Rob Mitchell, has released a new brochure "Guidelines to Growing Perennial Grasses for Biofuel and Bioproducts."
The three-page illustrated brochure provides succinct information to producers on:
- Perennial Grass Options for the Midwest
- Perennial Grass Benefits
- Key Perennial Management Strategies
The brochure also provides tips on how to reliably establish and successfully manage warm-season grasses.
From Kacey Birchmmier a fourth-generation farm woman in central comes the article "Iowa Perennials Have Potential In Low-Productive Land." (Agriculture.com 11/30). Click here for the full article.
You can follow Kacey on Twitter - @KaceyBirchmier.
From the USDA comes a report to "An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry". This report is a follow-up to the 2014 preliminary study of the same topics.
The 2015 USDA report included several important findings and projections:
- The bioproducts industry contributed $369 billion and directly or indirectly contributed 4 million jobs to the U.S. economy in 2013.
- Each actual bioindustry job creates indirectly creates 1.64 additional job in the U.S. economy.
- Certain sectors of the biobased products industry, such as biobased chemicals and “biorefineries”, create between 5 and nearly 20 total jobs for each job directly created.
- The 2014 preliminary report noted that biobased chemicals could represent 45-50% of the specialty chemicals market by 2025, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
It's always good to know what the important people think. That's why we asked county ag agents/extension professionals what they think about growingperennial grasses for biomass. See what they told us in this report from our project evaluator Sorrel Brown.
Iowa Energy Center honors Jay Staker
Jay Staker Earlier has always been a force within CenUSA's Extension and Outreach team so we are not surprised he is being honored by the Iowa Energy Center.
As part of the Energy Center's Iowa Energy Summit proceedings, Jay received an Impact Award along with professors Laura Jarboe (Chemical and Biological Engineering), Dr. Sri Sritharan (Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering). The awards are given to Energy Center grantees that exemplify the Center's mission to support economic development, environmental sustainability, and social well-being for Iowans.
The Iowa Energy Center had this to say about Jay:
"Staker, the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa board chair, is also the interim director for Iowa Space Grant Consortium. Staker received the 2015 Impact Award from the Iowa Energy Center for his passion and dedication in helping the next generation of Iowa scientists. He was a science teacher for over twenty years and has been with Iowa State Extension for over a decade. While conducting his life’s work, Staker always wondered if there were better ways to help children learn science. He strives to find better methods for teachers, ways to support educators, and most importantly, he tries to find ways for children to actually do science, not just hear about it."
To learn more about Jay's contributions to CenUSA via the C6 BioFarm game and app, click here.
Curious about how corn stover might affect ag markets? Check out this Farm Futures online article "How biofuel from corn stover could impact grain markets".
Want to go deep? Read the full research article "Development of Corn Stover Biofuel: Impacts on Corn and Soybean Markets and Crop Rotation" online for free at http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/sar/article/view/54396/28954
Learn what CenUSA economists Chad Hart, Keri Jacobs and F.John Hay have to say about the challenges to producers in the short term in this November 6th article "Switchgrass Could Be A Top Biofuel Crop, But It Faces Challenges" from the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan.
CenUSA is hosting a Photo Contest!
Our sister USDA-NIFA Bioenergy CAP Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (Washington state) has released a new video released by which explains how cellulosic ethanol is being used in the Pacific Northwest by the sustainable hardwood bioproducts and biofuels industry. AHB believes that one day cellulosic biofuels from hardwood could be a cheap fuel produced from locally sourced poplar trees, a better alternative to the region that “importing” corn-based ethanol..
In this article from Biomass Magazine, Building Sustainable Cellulosic Biofuel Portfolios (10/24), author Rajdeep Golecha discusses how switchgrass can be used to diversify a cellulosic bioenergy portfolio.
SeeNews reports that University of Texas researcher Tom Juenger-and his team have secured two grants totaling $15 Million to study how switchgrass can become a sustainable source of biofuel in the changing climate environment. The grants include $11 million in DOE funding and additional $4 million in NSF funding. Learn more at https://renewables.seenews.com/news/view?url=498361.
As CenUSA pursues its vision of increased perennials on the Midwestern landscape, we are mindful of the role women will play in the new bioeconomy. The USDA has created a series of infographics that highlights the contributions of women in ag in state-by-state infographics. Learn more in: New WomenInAg Infographics Show Impact of Women in Agriculture in Every State.
From the University of Iowa news service comes "Bravo to biomass: UI study shows using oat hulls for power has considerable benefits to the environment and human health." (9/24/15). The article provides interesting info on the co-firing of biomass (oat hulls) in the University of Iowa's coal boiler systems, including significant public health benefits.
In "Stems, Sticks Seen Driving Biofuel’s Next Expansion" (9/17), Ag Web discusses the future of biofuels as moving away from food crop-based biofeedstocks to a more 'stems and sticks' approach. The article suggests that a big expansion of this sector of the ag/bioeconomy is poised for takeoff after 2020.
The US Dept. of Energy has awarded Michigan State University $5 million to learn how biofuel crops acquire nitrogen with a goal to reduce fertilizer use on marginal lands. Learn more in "Grant to help increase biofuel yield while limiting fertilizer use."
CenUSA Bioenergy Advisory Board member Bryan Mellage has had his article "Rethinking our Gas Tank" republished in the August 2015 issue of Prairie Fire. The article provides a native Midwesterner's view of where we have been and can go with biofuels and bioenergy.
The Iowa City Press Citizen describes the University of Iowa's efforts to use biomass from miscanthus as part of its overall push towards reducing its fossil fuel footprint in "UI ramps up biofuel efforts" (8/26/15).
From Midwest Energy News (8/25/15), "The power of willow and switchgrass: Scientists, farmers team up on bioenergy experiment." Learn more about the Argonne National Lab's work with producers to prove the worth of biomass crops.
CenUSA Bioenergy's sister project IBSS has released a Guidebook for the Sustainable Production Practices of Switchgrass in the Southeastern U.S.
Topics to be discussed include:
♦ Growing hybrid poplar as a short rotation woody energy crop
♦ Sustainable production and environmental impacts on soil, water, and wildlife
♦ Best areas to develop biofuel and biochemical industries
♦ Biomass production tour highlighting operational and research poplar plots
August 17 | 10:30am - 1:00pm | Pilchuck Demonstration Site | Stanwood, Washington
September 15 | 12:00pm - 3:00pm | Jefferson Demonstration Site | Jefferson, Oregon
October 21, 2015 | 12:00pm - 3:00pm | Clarksburg Demonstration Site | Clarksburg, California
Or contact Betsy Fradd at WUS Extension email@example.com, 253-241-5043
Biomass Magazine reports that Genera Energy has launched a free biomass crop planning app. ( Genera Energy launches unique biomass crop planning app, (Aug. 6, 2015).
The app, known as Biomass is available on both the Apple and Google Play app stores. According to Genera "the Biomass app was developed to serve as a practical, easy-to-use mobile crop planning and learning tool for biomass farmers and landowners."
Included in the app are:
- A biomass crop library that includes information, photos and range maps for the most popular American biomass crops.
- A multi-function biomass calculator to help determine individual biomass needs.
CenUSA and an award-winning commercial film. What could they possibly have in common? Turns out more than you might know.
Biofuels Digest has given Robert Brown, CenUSA co-project director and head of Iowa State University's Bioeconomy Institute a new title —the "Godfatha of Pyrolysis."
The article, The Pyromaniax, Class of 2015: The Top 10 Pyrolysis projects in renewable fuels (Aug. 4) provides an excellent overview of the "pyro backstory" as well as the current state of pyrolysis commercialization both in the US and globally. Most important of all, it bestows that remarkable title on Dr. Brown!
If you are a bioenergy fan and have not heard about the USDA-ARS FarmBio3 project you need to remedy that hole in your portfolio.
FarmBio3 has a research summary. Exploring On-Farm Pyrolysis Processing of Biofuels available on the eXtension Farm Energy site that will give you the current low down on how "how on-farm processing could be part of a decentralized system of biorefineries located in villages, which are efficiently supplied with bio-oil from feedstocks grown and processed on surrounding farms."
FarmBio3 is part of the research effort from our colleagues at NewBioProject. Kwesi Boateng who is part of both CenUSA Bioenergy and the NewBioProject is pushing the envelope on where this exciting distributed technology can go.
CenUSA collaborator Emily Heaton is breaking new ground with her work on dedicated energy crops. You can learn more about Heaton's work in the article "Heaton is studying Miscanthus and other dedicated energy crops" published in AgriNews (July 13). See why Heaton thinks "Since the 1930s soybean production has exploded, and I think there's a chance for energy crops to do the same."
CenUSA's fellow NIFA-AFRI CAP colleagues Advance Hardwood Biofuels Northwest tell their story in "Poplar-Based Bioethanol Production Awaits Spike In Price Of Crude" (7/1715)
The article is an excellent review of the opportunities and pitfalls surrounding the use of poplar as a biofeedstock. You can read the article here
CenUSA's Mike Casler is featured in an article looking at multiple traits to improve switchgrass.
Ethanol Producer Magazine (6/22/15) takes a look at how to move switchgrass from an "excellent biofuel production candidate" to a profitable source of biomass in "Researchers look at multiple traits to improve switchgrass." According to Dr. Casler: "After we achieve the yield and conversion goals, switchgrass could be a significant component of biomass crop grown east of the Rocky Mountains,.. We think we can achieve those goals by 2025."
The CenUSA leadership team has written an article summarizing CenUSA's progress towards its vision since 2011. The article, "Midwest vision for sustainable fuel production" published in the journal Biofuels is now available online.
Abstract: This article charts the progress of CenUSA Bioenergy, a USDA-NIFA-AFRI coordinated agricultural project focused on the North Central region of the US. CenUSA’s vision is to develop a regional system for producing fuels and other products from perennial grass crops grown on marginally productive land or land that is otherwise unsuitable for annual cropping. This article focuses on contributions CenUSA has made to nine primary systems needed to make this vision a reality: feedstock improvement; feedstock production on marginal land; feedstock logistics; modeling system performance; feedstock conversion into biofuels and other products; marketing; health and safety; education, and outreach. The final section, Future Perspectives, sets forth a roadmap of additional research, technology development and education required to realize commercialization.
USDA to Hold Stakeholder Forum on the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program
July 16, 2015, 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
To participate via the webinar, please go to: https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/789/9401
WASHINGTON – The USDA Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program provides loan guarantees of up to $250 million to construct or retrofit biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals. Assistance is also available to eligible biobased facilities that convert biobased outputs from refineries into commercial-scale end-user products. USDA is holding a national stakeholder forum to discuss changes to the program under the 2014 Farm Bill.
A national stakeholder forum to announce the new Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003), expanding opportunities in renewable chemical and biobased product manufacturing, and application processing and program improvements.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno
USDA Energy Division program experts, and program partners and stakeholders
CenUSA Bioenergy commercialization partner Renmatix has received a 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award. The award recognizes individuals and firms who "for innovative solutions that “reduce the use of energy, hazardous chemicals and water, while cutting manufacturing costs and sparking investments."
You can learn more about the award here.
Renmatix is the leading technology licensor for the conversion of biomass into cellulosic sugar, an enabling feedstock for petroleum alternatives used in the global biochemical and biofuels markets. The company's proprietary Plantrose® process challenges conventional sugar economics by cheaply converting cellulosic biomass – from wood waste to agricultural residue – into useful, cost-effective sugars. Renmatix's supercritical hydrolysis technology deconstructs non-food biomass an order of magnitude faster than other processes and enhances its cost advantage by using no significant consumables. www.renmatix.com.
From our friends at eXtension Farm Energy, a new webinar: Agronomic and Environmental Uses of Biochar
July 17 at 1:30 p.m. (central); 2:30 (eastern); 12:30 (mountain); 11:30 am (pacific)
Interest in the use of biochar has skyrocketed in the past year. The use of manure for generating biochar is being intensively explored as a way to address nutrient loading and renewable energy.
How Do I Participate?
On the day of the webinar, go to www.extension.org/58813 to download the speaker’s power point presentations and connect to the virtual meeting room. First-time viewers should also follow the steps at: www.extension.org/8924www.extension.org/8924.
For More Information
- How biochar works in soil - http://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/32-How-biochar-works-in-soil
- Biochar: The science behind the hype - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQxthabe_OU
- The 55 uses of biochar - http://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/2-The-55-uses-of-biochar
- The International Biochar Initiative - http://www.biochar-international.org/
- Coaltec Energy - http://www.coaltecenergy.com/
According to Farm Futures Magazine, what's old may just be new. The article "Researchers integrate biofuels, food on farms" (July 9) describes the work of Argonne National Lab researchers in the a central Illinois watershed as they work with local producers to improve farm bottom line and positive environmental returns.
The researchers conclusions to date —"The key is a "multifunctional landscape" where resources are "allocated efficiently and crops are situated in their ideal soil and landscape position, ... For example, planting bioenergy crops like willows or switchgrass in rows where commodity crops are challenged - that provides an energy feedstock while also limiting fertilizer runoff into waterways." —sound a bit likes the farms of yore.
Learn more about the project “Multifunctional landscapes: Site characterization and field-scale design to incorporate biomass production into an agricultural system” from Farm Futures or from the project's latest journal article "Multifunctional landscapes: Site characterization and field-scale design to incorporate biomass production into an agricultural system".
A new study available without charge in the journal PLOS ONE explains what until know how been considered a hydrological mystery −biochar's "seemingly contradictory ability to make clay soils drain faster and sandy soils drain slower." (1).
Looking for the condensed version? Agrinews has published an excellent synopsis.
(1) "Study: Biochar alters water flow to improve sand, clay" http://agrinews-pubs.com/Content/News/MoneyNews/Article/Study-Biochar-alters-water-flow-to-improve-sand-clay-/8/27/12083#sthash.fx6HbMBj.uxfs&st_refDomain=t.co&st_refQuery=/TVX5CEcefE
The Great Lakes Bioenergy Center has released a study looking at how 'second gen' perennial biofuel crops such as switchgrass and other perennial grasses use water and affect overall Midwestern rainfall balance. The researchers conclude that in a humid Midwestern climate with well-drained soils, perennial use water at roughly the same rate as corn.
More information is available from Biofuels Digest Researchers say perennial crops could use same water as corn in Upper Midwest (7/6/15) and from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Center - Perennial biofuel crops use water at levels similar to corn.
Grazing land has scope for biofuel surge
The website SciDevNet reports on Bioenergy & Sustainability: Bridging the Gaps from the organization SCOPE (2015 Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment)
- At least 500 million hectares are available for growing biofuel crops
This is after considering rising food demand and growing urbanisation
Only up to 200 million hectares would be needed to slash fossil fuel use
Chad Martin, CenUSA Collaborator and Purdue University renewable energy extension specialist presented an Overview of Wind, Solar and Energy Efficiency at the 2015 Energy Expo at the Batesville Middle School. Martin discussed the potential for biomass energy, including switchgrass to help power the Midwest. To learn more read Renewable Energy Resources in the Batesville Herald Tribune (June 26, 2015).
Biofuels News for the (Euro) Masses
Biofuels Digest (6/29/15) tells the story of a new pubic focused website www.BiofuelsforEurope.eu. The website launched on June 29th is quite interactive and is intended to provide the interested public with summaries of "the latest science on key biofuels issues using fact-based, understandable information."
The USDA has released a new report of great interest to individuals nad businesses interested in growing a sustainable bioeconomy. The report, An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry A Report to the Congress of the United States of America was prepared for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred® program and the US Congress. Click here for the full text. More information is available here.
The report is a follow-up to the October 2014 report, Why Biobased? Opportunities in the Emerging Bioeconomy prepared for USDA.
The report seeks to answer the six following important questions regarding the contributions of the biobased products industry in the US:
(i) the quantity of biobased products sold;
(ii) the value of the biobased products;
(iii) the quantity of jobs created;
(iv) the quantity of petroleum displaced;
(v) other environmental benefits; and
(vi) areas in which the use or manufacturing of biobased products could be more effectively used, including identifying any technical and economic obstacles and recommending how those obstacles can be
The US Department of Energy has released a webpage that highlights "6 New things happening with biofuels" click here and learn more these exciting developments:
- Biofuels are getting a lot cheaper
- The hardest part is getting easier
- There's an algae surfboard
- Robots are going to improve the plants used to make fuel
- You can test your biofuels knowledge online
- You can view improvements yourself
Of course, at CenUSA we are not waiting for robot technology. We are sending out scientists today and every day to promote our vision of creating a Midwestern regional system for producing advanced transportation fuels and bioproducts derived from perennial grasses grown on land that is either unsuitable or marginal for row crop production.
The USDA is proposing to open up its loan guarantee program to manufacturers who use biomass to make products. Learn about this potentially historic opportunity for the producers of plant based biomass from the New York Times in "USDA Program Promotes Products Such as Plant-Based Bottles."
'It's all in the traits' says CenUSA and USDA-ARS geneticist and feedstock developer Mike Casler. Learn more about Mike's work in "Better switchgrass, better biofuel"
Is it time to make a bet on perennial power? The Rosebud Sioux may be ready BioMass Better Than Gaming’: Rosebud Sioux Elder Pushing Proposal in South Dakota.Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/06/11/biomass-better-gaming-rosebud-sioux-elder-pushing-proposal-south-dakota-160703
Things are heating up in the pyrolysis world (all puns intended)! CenUSA's co-project director and director of Iowa State University Bioeconomy Institute Robert Brown outlines the plans for a pilot plant that will use a fast pyrolysis process to convert biomass into bio-oil and biochar. Learn more about this exciting development in "PILOT PLANT SLATED FOR A FAST-PYROLYSIS PROCESS THAT CONVERTS BIOMASS INTO FUELS" from the current issue of Chemical Engineering magazine.
CenUSA's fellow USDA-NIFA grantees at NARA have teamed up with Alaska Airlines to fly on aviation fuel made from forest "residuals." NARA has been working with commercial partner Gevo to produce the fuel. You can learn more in this article form BioFuels Disgest: Alaska Airlines to fly on wood-based aviation biofuels next year.
Learn more about Washington State University led NARA here.
USDA Announces Restart of Biomass Crop Assistance Program for Renewable Energy
The USDA announced (June 1) that producers, ranchers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy will be able for incentives this summer as part of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. BCAP provides financial assistance to establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility. Learn more here.
The Journal of Soil and Water Conservation has published an article by CenUSA project members Pam Porter, Rob Mitchell and Ken Moore. The article "Reducing hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico: Reimagining a more resilient agricultural landscape on the Mississippi River Watershed" is available free online here.
Harvest Public Media takes a look at the promise of the next generation of biofuels in "Next Generation Fuels Stuck In Neutral." The article which also contains an audio segment is available here.
The US DOE has just released a fact sheet, Green Jobs in the US that explains how the emerging bioeconomy, along with many other benefits, is creating new employment in the US.
According to the Chatham Daily news, switchgrass may well be the new 'darling' in Ontario farming. ("Ontario farmers being pointed to wheat straw alternatives").
In the face of rising wheat straw shortages, Ontario's farmers are exploring the use of switchgrass for animal bedding for feed. Lear more here.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports on how perennial powerhouse miscanthus grown at the local airport will provide biomass for power at the University of Iowa. Read the full article here.
Aloterra and World Centric have announced they are jointly developing and marketing a new line of certified compostable foodservice items made from Miscanthus plant fiber. The goal to replace foam and plastic items which currently dominate the food system. Learn more in this article from Biomass Magazine, Aloterra announces foodservice ware line made from miscanthus.
The really cool takeaway...the miscanthus will be grown on land that is marginal for food crop production.
CenUSA commercial partner Renmatix accelerates commercial progress with acquisition of former Mascoma production unit
CenUSA commercial partner Renmatix announced today that it has acquired existing assets of the former Mascoma corporation’s 56,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Rome, NY. The new Feedstock Processing Facility (FPF) is dedicated to the first step in conversion to cellulosic sugar (from different types of biomass materials) utilizing proprietary Plantrose® process conditions.
The FPF opened officially on April 20, 2015, as the third U.S. location for Renmatix. This move creates a secure supply for Renmatix and its development partners at the IPC in Kennesaw, GA., where the second step in production of Plantro® sugars is performed.
Learn more here.
The Newton Daily News has featured the new CenUSA supported video game C6
Learn more about what CenUSA collaborator Jay Staker and his team are up to in "ISU video game shows what it’s like to farm" (Jason W. Brooks, Newton Daily News, April 28, 2015.
Clearing the way for a more sustainable method of asphalt production, Chris Williams and Robert Brown (Iowa State University College of Engineering) and their research team have been awarded a paten
t on April 15, 2015) after developing a developed a method to create bioasphalt using cellulosic feedstock.
Though asphalt production typically uses crude petroleum as one of the variables, researchers at Iowa State joined forces to develop biorenewable materials. Learn more here.
The latest copy of our BLADES newsletter has hit the virtual streets. Click here to read our April issue and these informative stories:
- Toward progress on nutrient management
- Chevrolet and Ducks Unlimited pair up for grasslands
- Switchgrass: Better bedding for broilers?
- CenUSA releases first-ever decision support tool for switchgrass
- The California carbon offset market: directing the changing landscape
- Managing carbon like coffee cups
A new study by University of Wisonconsin Madison researchers Tyler Lark, J. Meghan Salmon and Holly Gibbs. used high resolution satellite imagery to document significant loss of carbon-storing natural lands as land is converted into carbon-emitting biofuel croplands. Read the article here.
The full study is available in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
At CenUSA we are part of a larger research effort, the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's bioenergy "Coordinated Agricultural Projects" (CAPs).* One of our fellow CAPs is Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). NARA has created a series of webinars specifically aimed at educators to acquaint the with environmental sustainability research. You can learn more about these webinars and access them here.
*Learn more about all six CAPs by clicking here.
According to the Great Lakes Biological Research Center “Switchgrass is a promising biofuel feedstock and represents a kind of halfway point between agronomic intensification and ecological intensification,” says GLBRC doctoral researcher David Duncan.
Learn more at "Toward Ecological Intensification One Prairie Grass a a Time."
Check out this article from the Department of Energy, Five Harvesting Technologies are Making Biofuels More Competitive in the Marketplace, for the latest on cost-saving biofeedstock harvest technologies. The article is supplemented with infographics and includes information specific to harvesting switchgrass.
To access the article, click here
Learn how Iowa high school student Eric Koehlmoos went from his basement lab in Paulina, Iowa to the White House. It's a switchgrass and biofuel story that will make you feel a little more confident in the future. Click here for more info.
For biofuels and bioproducts to achieve commercial success there have to be means to achieve commercialization of lignin. From Biomass Magazine (3/5/15) comes news of a conceptual breakthrough. Learn more at "NREL refines method to convert lignin to nylon precursor."
The Hill has published, in its Congress Blog the parable "Managing Carbon Like Coffee Cups" by Robert Brown CenUSA Co-PI and Director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University. In the parable Dr. Brown discusses the important role that bioenergy can play in limiting carbon dioxide accumulation in the earth's athmosphere.
The article is accompanied by a cartoon drawn by Stefanie Dao, and Iowa State University graduate student in studio arts.
There is some exciting news in the bioenergy world this morning and it involves our research/commercialization partner Renmatix and the French energy giant Total, SA. You can also learn more in an article from Biofuels Digest in the article "Total makes play in cellulosic sugars, invests in Renmatix, inks JDA".
Biomass Magazine says "Expanded cellulosic fuel pathways have led to a surge of biogas-based fuel credits, and producers are taking advantage of a significant boost to project economics."
Learn more here.
CenUSA's commercial partner, Renmatix is featured in today's Biofuels Digest 5-Minute Guide. Read the guide.
The controversy surrounding the recent working paper issued by the World Resource Institute (Searchinger and Heimlich) continues to generate response from the biofuel and bioeconomy sector. Read the latest from Biofuels Digest and Brent Erickson (Executive VP, Biotechnology Industry Organization) "Why Tim Searchinger Is Dead Wrong About Biofuels and Land Use."
IowaNow reports that University of Iowa researchers have found that switchgrass can help remove PCBs from contaminated soils. Learn more in the article "UI engineers find switchgrass removes PCBs from soils."
For more information read the research team's paper “Enhanced polychlorinated biphenyl removal in a switchgrass rhizosphere by bioaugmentation with Burkholderia xenovorans LB400.”
CenUSA's Robert Brown ranked #70 in Biofuel Digest's top 125 people in the advanced bioeconomy. Click here to learn more.
In a Biomass Magazine article dated February 3, 2015 Katie Fletcher looks at how grasslands and perennial grasses can serve both conservation roles and as supplemental feedstock for anaerobic digesters. http://www.biomassmagazine.com/articles/11468/grass-to-gas
CenUSA Coproject Directors David Laird and Robert Brown are featured in "How crop waste could become carbon-negative energy" in the Jan. 27, 2015 issue of Midwest Energy News. Click here for the article.
CenUSA Advisory Board Chair Tom Binder recommends this article, "Synchronized peak-rate years of global resources use." Click here for access.
What factors influence farmers' thoughts about change? The article "The difficult art of communicating climate change to farmers" sheds some light on how to approach farmers when change is part of the conversations.
CenUSA's Jason Hill quoted in New York Times: "New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels"