Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Dairy Forage Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #302337

Research Project: Redesigning Forage Genetics, Management, and Harvesting for Efficiency, Profit, and Sustainability in Dairy and Bioenergy Production Systems

Location: Dairy Forage Research

Title: Midwest vision for sustainable fuel production

item MOORE, KENNETH - Iowa State University
item BIRRELL, STUART - Iowa State University
item BROWN, ROBERT - Iowa State University
item Casler, Michael
item Mitchell, Robert - Rob

Submitted to: Biofuels
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/1/2014
Publication Date: 11/1/2014
Publication URL:
Citation: Moore, K., Birrell, S., Brown, R., Casler, M.D., Mitchell, R. 2014. Midwest vision for sustainable fuel production. Biofuels. 5:(6)687-702.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural researchers and producers have been challenged to solve problems to help meet federally mandated goals for producing fuels from biomass crops. The CenUSA research project, funded by USDA-NIFA-AFRI, is an interdisciplinary team of scientists from several institutions in the Midwestern USA, working toward solving numerous problems and challenges of producing and delivering biomass and bioenergy to meet some of these goals. Team goals are centered on nine topics: feedstock development, feedstock production, feedstock logistics, systems modeling, feedstock conversion, marketing, health and safety, education and outreach, and commercialization. This paper describes the challenges and goals that comprise each topical area, providing a general description of the methods and approaches used to meet these challenges. The article should be of interest to scientists and stakeholders who would like to collaborate with team members and who have a vested interest in the success of this effort.

Technical Abstract: Meeting the challenge of providing 30% of the transportation fuels used in the USA from those developed from biomass will require significant improvements in technology across the supply chain, significant commercial investment in infrastructure, and, because of the unique characteristics of biomass as opposed to other fuel feedstocks, a regional approach. Developing an advanced biofuels industry will lessen US dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuel thereby improving energy security, will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change, and could help revitalize rural economies in much the same way as that which occurred with the grain ethanol industry. However, developing advanced biofuels could lead to negative consequences unless steps are taken to prevent or mitigate potential social and environmental impacts. Using prime cropland to grow energy crops could threaten global food security and could result in land use changes elsewhere that have negative effects on global carbon balance. By growing energy crops on land not well-suited to food production, both of these concerns could be addressed. Furthermore, growing herbaceous perennials on this land could potentially improve environmental outcomes resulting in better air and water quality and increased carbon sequestration. This article describes a USDA-NIFA-AFRI coordinated agricultural project that has the vision of developing a regional system for producing fuels and other products from perennial grass crops grown on marginally productive land or land that is otherwise unsuitable for annual cropping for environmental reasons. The project is focused within the North Central USA and, because of this, is referred to as CenUSA Bioenergy. It conducts research, education, and outreach programs to catalyze commercialization of technologies in support of this emerging bioindustry.