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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

2011 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The objective of this specific cooperative agreement is for the University utilizing a number of its departments to cooperate with ARS to provide economic and ecologically based science that will sustain farm operations producing biomass as feedstock for bio-based energy production. Included will be research to add value to the resulting co-products. The specific objective will be (1) to determine appropriate bio-energy crops for maximizing bio-fuel production capacity and (2) to develop economically feasible management systems that reduce input requirements for transitioning into and out of bio-energy crops.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Novel research addressing feedstock production systems will be conducted. Specifically trials will be initiated to measure adaptation and endurance of a multiple of potential feedstocks in comparison to Switchgrass. Included will be research evaluation conversion of the feedstock as bio-based energy sources. Initial plot areas will be at five University Centers and one ARS location.

3.Progress Report

a. Evaluation of selected perennial grasses and legumes for biofuel production in central North Dakota. Ten (10) treatments of individual and conglomerate perennial biomass species samples from Williston and Minot were used for carbohydrate compositional analysis and used with biomass yield data to project potential ethanol yields on a mass and area basis. Compositional analysis data from these and other samples were also used to develop an NIR model for rapid prediction of mixed biomass chemical composition. This data was used for a MS thesis.

Perennial biofuel plots, initiated in 2010 at NGPRL and a Ducks Unlimited site continued to be monitored in 2010. Plots were harvested in Sept. 2010. Plots will be maintained throughout the growing season and will be harvested in the fall of 2011, after the first frost. Harvest data was reported in the CGREC Annual Report which was distributed throughout the state of North Dakota and to all Land Grant Colleges. Results are posted to the CGREC web site. Current results may be viewed at

b. Evaluate Miscanthus Yield Potential in the Northern Great Plains. Miscanthus rhizomes planted under a rainout shelter in summer 2010 were left out during the 2010-2011 winter and survival was evaluated in spring 2011. From June -- August 2011, miscanthus, switchgrass and western wheatgrass were watered at normal or 150% of normal precipitation. Yield, persistence and water use efficiency will be evaluated for all three species following the fall biomass harvest. These data will be used to estimate the suitability of miscanthus as a potential biofuel crop in the Northern Great Plains.

c. Biomass densification and storage. A pellet mill with accessories such as spare dies, rollers, and bearings, suitable for biomass densification was purchased, installed, and successfully tested. Stable pellets were obtained from the supplied finely ground test material (< 1/8” particle size). Densification studies on samples of switchgrass and smooth bromegrass are in progress to determine the effect of densification on the cellulosic ethanol downstream production. The effect of pellet size (die hole dimension) is also considered in this study.

The evaluation of size reduction and particle size distribution of several species of local biomass using lab scale knife grinder, Wiley mill, and hammer mill is also under progress. Machine vision method is being used to determine the particle size distribution and the results compared with mechanical sieving using standard sieves. A review of physical and mechanical properties of biomass and their products is also progressing simultaneously.

ADODR monitoring was done via personal visits, phone calls and emails.

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
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