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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Plant Science Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #314006

Research Project: Enhanced Alfalfa Germplasm and Genomic Resources for Yield, Quality, and Environmental Protection

Location: Plant Science Research

Title: Sustainable green biorefineries

Author
item Samac, Deborah - Debby

Submitted to: Forage Focus
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/3/2015
Publication Date: 3/2/2015
Citation: Samac, D.A. 2015. Sustainable green biorefineries. Forage Focus. March 2015. Pages 10-11.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Every major crop in the US is converted from raw plant material into commercial value-added products, except for alfalfa. In the US, alfalfa is used almost exclusively as a livestock feed, but in Europe the situation is very different. In France, alfalfa refining has occurred for over 30 years. In Havelland, Germany a demonstration plant with an annual capacity of 20,000 tons of biomass is in development. Alfalfa has the potential to compete with other plant materials in green biomass biorefineries in the US. First, alfalfa produces more protein than any other crop and protein production is environmentally and economically sustainable. Second, alfalfa has high biomass yield potentials. On-farm research has shown that under good management, alfalfa can yield 6 tons of dry matter per acre each production year under rain fed conditions in the eastern and Midwestern US. Additionally, there are new opportunities for increasing total production and harvesting fresh alfalfa for use in biorefining. Third, a number of high value products can be produced from refining alfalfa. Importantly, the green protein produced from heat coagulation of the juice pressed from alfalfa has components that make it an ideal feed for poultry and for aquaculture. An acre of alfalfa can produce 1.5 metric tons of fishmeal-equivalent protein concentrate that at current fishmeal prices would have a value of over $3,400. Theses characteristics and the growing global demand for animal feeds, biofuel feedstocks, and industrial raw materials make alfalfa a highly sustainable and desirable crop for biorefining that will result in both environmental and economic benefits.