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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Improving Chemical, Physical, and Biological Properties of Degraded Sandy Soils for Environmentally Sustainable Production

Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research

Title: Distribution of energy content in corn plants as influenced by corn residue management

item Cantrell, Keri
item Novak, Jeffrey - Jeff
item Frederick, James
item Karlen, Douglas - Doug
item Watts, Donald - Don

Submitted to: Sungrant Initiative
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/4/2012
Publication Date: 10/2/2012
Citation: Cantrell, K.B., Novak, J.M., Frederick, J.R., Karlen, D.L., Watts, D.W. 2012. Distribution of energy content in corn plants as influenced by corn residue management. In: Proceedings from Sun Grant National Conference: Science for Biomass Feedstock Production and Utilization, October 2-5, 2012, New Orleans, Louisana. pp.5. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Economic, environmental, climate change and energy independence issues are contributing to rising fossil fuel prices and creating a growing interest in the development and utilization of biomass feedstocks for renewable energy. Potential feedstocks include perennial grasses, timber, and annual grain crops with a current focus being placed on corn (Zea mays L.) stover. As part of the Sun Grant Regional Partnership corn stover project, a field study incorporating stover removal management practices was initiated in 2008 on plots composed of Coxville/Rains-Goldsboro-Lynchburg soil associations in South Carolina. In addition to annual yield and soil quality responses being reported elsewhere in this conference, studies were also conducted to measure any variations in the distribution of gross energy, as measured by an isoperibol calorimeter, in various corn stover fractions — whole plant, bottoms, tops, and cob. Cobs were found to be the most energy dense with an average value of 18.54 Megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg). The top half of the corn plant, considered to be the biomass above the ear shank, was more energy dense than the bottom half — 18.42 vs. 18.06 MJ/kg. Gross energy content of the whole plant, including the cob, was determined to be 18.62 MJ/kg. Over the four years, partial to total removal (i.e., 25 to 100%) of the above-ground plant biomass was dependent on rainfall and could supply between 30.3 and 162.1 Gigajoules per hectare.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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