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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Sustainable Biofuels and Co-products Research

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The proposed project is transdisciplinary, integrating research, education and extension objectives across nine areas that encompass the biobased product supply chain: 1) Feedstock Development: a) develop improved cultivars and hybrids of perennial grasses for use in bioenergy production systems, b) initiate breeding work on native legumes; 2) Sustainable Production Systems: c) optimize perennial biomass yields and ecosystem services, while maintaining food production; 3) Logistics: d) develop logistics systems that are flexible, efficient, and sustainable, e) investigate novel harvest and transport systems, f) evaluate harvest and supply chain logistic costs; 4) System Performance Metrics: g) identify and characterize sustainable bioenergy systems to achieve social, economic, and environmental goals, h) understand the socioeconomic and environmental consequences of perennial bioenergy systems; 5) Conversion: i) identify germplasm characteristics amenable to pyrolytic conversion, j) evaluate performance of pyrolytic biofuels; 6) Markets and Distribution: k) evaluate policy, market, and contract mechanisms to facilitate broad adoption by farmers, l) evaluate impacts of biofuels systems on regional and global food, feed, energy, and fiber markets; 7) Health and Safety: m) develop procedures for managing risks and protecting health while producing, harvesting, handling, and transporting biomass, n) develop procedures for monitoring and managing risks associated with production and transportation of biomass, derived fuels, and co-products; 8) Education: o) provide interdisciplinary education and engagement opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, p) develop K-12 learning activities; 9) Extension: q) develop outreach programs for all stakeholders of the bioenergy system.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
1) Under Feedstock Development: a) develop plant materials for plant adaptation regions using conventional and molecular breeding; 2) Under Sustainable Production Systems: b) evaluate BMPs of perennial biomass systems for system inputs (e.g. nutrients, water), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, soil C, productivity and ecosystem services, c) use factor-analysis plots to evaluate emerging agronomic practices, including biochar application, d) utilize modeling to extend knowledge from field to watershed scales; 3) Under Logistics: e) investigate novel harvest and transport systems, f) demonstrate these at field-scale, g) evaluate logistic costs, including the interaction between feedstock supply costs, scale and distribution of production, h) evaluate technologies for handling and applying biochar; 4) Under System Performance Metrics: i) adapt existing biophysical models to best represent data generated from field trials, j) adapt existing economic land-use models to best represent cropping system production costs and returns, k) integrate physical and economic models to create a spatially-explicit simulation model representing a wide variety of land uses, l) parameterize existing life cycle assessment models to understand cradle-to-grave consequences of various bioenergy land uses and conversion strategies; 5). Under Conversion: m) use micropyrolysis trials to screen plant materials for suitability in producing high quality bio-oil, n) identify physical or chemical properties of superior plant materials, o) develop mass and energy balances to support sustainability analyses, p) develop techno-economic models of the conversion process; 6) Under Markets and Distribution: q) identify economic and socioeconomic barriers to implementation, r) identify necessary conditions and incentives needed for sustainable biomass production, s) estimate threshold returns necessary for landowners to adopt biomass crops, t) develop a land use decision model to predict the likelihood of land use for biomass crop production, u) use existing national and global agricultural policy simulation models (FAPRI and GreenAgSim) to estimate scale effects of bioenergy production on commodity markets and GHG emissions, v) evaluate yield impacts of biochar on regional and global food, feed, fiber, and energy systems and on the GHG emissions; 7) Under Health and Safety: w) integrate safety and health with other program areas to encourage a continuous risk assessment to prevent or minimize creation of hazards, assess high risks, and allow implementation of preventative strategies; 8) Under Education: x) develop and exchange learning modules among partner institutions using the virtual-education-center (VEC) model, y) offer a 2-week Intensive Program in Bioenergy for project graduate students and 30 undergraduates who will then participate in an 8-week paid internship program; 9) Under Extension: z) develop and implement demonstrations, decision tools, workshops, and eXtension to communicate information to stakeholders.

3. Progress Report:
ARS hosted two students one from the University of Florida and one from Michigan State University at ERRC from June until August 2012. While at ERRC the students conducted research to characterize switchgrass for its response to catalytic and non-catalytic pyrolysis in terms of bio-oil, bio-char, and gas yield, bio-oil composition, and pyrolysis kinetics utilizing py-GC/MS and TGA. Variables studied for switchgrass included genotype and stage of maturity when harvested.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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