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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Natural Resource Management Research

2012 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 second year of evaluating Miscanthus under climatic conditions at Mandan indicated that winter mortality was greater than in previous years. Results of pelleting studies on switchgrass, bromegrass, and wheat straw indicated that pelleting of grassy biomass continues to pose challenges (e.g. clogging of the pelleting die, no pellet formation) when no additional inputs or devices (e.g. binders, steam conditioners) are used. Biomass was ground to a fine powder within the pellet mill prior to being forced through the die to form pellets. Samples of the powdered material as well as pellets were used to distinguish impacts of fine grinding and subsequent pelleting on pretreatment efficacy on hydrolysis yield. Hydrolysis results indicated that pelleting as well as the fine grinding occurring during pelleting improved the hydrolysis yield by four times (glucose yield from 2 g/L to 8 g/L for switchgrass). A new machine image processing program, which uses volume as the weighting factor to group particles, was developed and used to measure the particle size and size distribution of the original and powdered biomass. This research was published in two peer-reviewed journal articles. Storage characteristics (moisture absorption kinetics) of switchgrass, big bluestem and bromegrass measured with an environment control chamber. Results indicate that (1) up to 86% of water sorption took place within 5 hours, (2) sorption rate decreased very sharply during the first hour and quickly plateaued, and (3) existing mathematical models effectively described the observed sorption characteristics. Results were presented at the 2012 North Central Intersectional Conference of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, in Fargo, ND.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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