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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Bioenergy Research » Research » Research Project #421659


Location: Bioenergy Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
This program will focus on herbaceous perennials that provide potentially high biomass production and ecosystem services. A regional system for producing fuels from these bio-feedstocks based on pyrolytic conversion will be evaluated. Objectives are to: 1) develop cultivars and hybrids of perennial grasses optimized for bioenergy production; 2) develop sustainable production systems that optimize perennial biomass yields and ecosystem services; 3) develop flexible, efficient, and sustainable logistic systems; 4) identify and characterize sustainable bioenergy systems to achieve social, economic, and environmental goals and understand socioeconomic and environmental consequences of perennial bioenergy systems; 5) identify germplasm characteristics amenable to pyrolytic conversion and evaluate performance of pyrolytic biofuels; 6) evaluate policy, market, and contract mechanisms to facilitate broad adoption by farmers; 7) develop procedures for managing risks and protecting health for each component of the biofuel production chain; 8) provide interdisciplinary education and engagement opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students; and 9) develop outreach programs for all stakeholders of the bioenergy system.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) effort will focus on the analysis of samples for chemical composition. The choice of samples will be structured to test specific hypothesis regarding measurement of biomass quality for fast pyrolysis that are expected to lead to publications and deliverable knowledge products. The specific hypothesizes are that near-infrared (NIR) calibration models can be constructed for a variety of warm season grasses to predict conversion quality and composition and that composition affects conversion. Analysis of elemental minerals, not measureable by NIR, will be conducted by a collaborator (University of Nebraska). Fast pyrolysis measurements will be conducted by collaborators within Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and at a partner academic institution. Sample sets will be included for switchgrass, big bluestem, and indiangrass. On a broader scope, biomass quality will be related to genetic information provided by plant breeders to allow for development of higher quality cultivars. By combining the information from the production trials with samples from those trials, we will also be able to determine the effects of management and environment.

3. Progress Report:
Methods were selected and optimized for analyzing biomass samples for chemical composition. The selected variables included soluble sugars, structural carbohydrates, and acid soluble and insoluble lignin. The selected method consisted of a water extraction (soluble sugars) followed by starch hydrolysis with amylase. The other components were analyzed by a two stage sulfuric acid digestion where sugars were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography with pulsed amperometric detector (HPLC-PAD). The selected methods were validated using a standard reference set of five switchgrass. Subsequently the first set of 90 switchgrass samples were analyzed, which will be used to extend the near infrared reflectance (NIR) model developed earlier by this group.

4. Accomplishments