Food technologist David Johnston
(left) and research leader Kevin
Hicks check fermentability of
enzymatically milled corn.
A golden kernel of corn is a rich source of many food and industrial products, one of which is ethanol. Ethanol production in the United States grew from 175 million gallons in 1980 to a record 2.8 billion gallons in 2003. This boost in ethanol demand has created a significant new market for corn.
"The United States is producing more ethanol from corn and other domestic, renewable resources than ever before," says Kevin Hicks, research leader in ARS's Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit. "Almost 10 percent of the U.S. corn crop is used to make fuel ethanol. That's good for America's farmers. Ethanol is also good for the environment because its use reduces greenhouse gas emissions."
Hicks and colleagues at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC), in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, are developing new ways to reduce the costs of producing this important fuel and other corn products. They're also creating computer models to help researchers and ethanol producers estimate how different techniques might affect the bottom line.