Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 22, 2011
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
Citation: Lamb, J.F. 2011. Alfalfa -- a sustainable crop for biomass energy production [abstract]. Idaho Alfalfa and Forage Conference, February 22-23, 2011, Burley, Idaho. Available: www.idahohay.com/Lamb_AlfalfaBiomass.pdf. Technical Abstract: Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) has the potential to be a significant contributor to America's renewable energy future. In an alfalfa biomass energy production system, alfalfa forage would be separated into stem and leave fractions. The stems would be processed to produce energy, and the leaves would be sold to provide additional income as a livestock feed and/or a source of value-added products. Other value-added components unique to an alfalfa biomass energy production system include a fertilizer N replacement value (for subsequent crops in rotation), increased soil N and C concentrations, and improved ground water quality. Both biochemical [saccharification and fermentation to liquid fuel (ethanol)] and thermochemical (combustion or gasification) conversion technologies can be used to produce energy or electricity from alfalfa stem biomass. Alfalfa stem cell wall sugar yields and lignin concentration impact the efficiency of energy conversion depending on the technology used. Cell wall lignin concentration impacted the efficiency of biochemical conversion but showed little to no impact on thermochemical conversion. Choice of energy product, dry matter yield, management practices, and real world evaluation methods will impact selection methods and breeding goals when modifying alfalfa stems for biomass energy production.