Northwestern Regional Biomass Research Center (NWRBRC)
The Northwestern Regional Biomass Research Center (NWRBRC) is one of four regional USDA Biomass Research Centers. The NWRBRC is a network of existing USDA-ARS facilities and scientists located in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
NWRBRC Research Focus Areas
Scientists screen annual and perennial crops and their cultivars for resistance to lodging, disease, herbicides, and drought and heat to determine their suitability for production within different growing environments within the region. They also determine the chemical composition of various resulting feedstocks that influences thermo-chemical conversion and ethanol yield, and ascertain the relative energy benefits and environmental impacts that are associated with growing bioenergy crops.
Field experiments comparing germination and stand establishment, winter hardiness and survival, water and nitrogen use, residue decomposition, weed control, biomass yield, profitability, and other aspects of cultivation are conducted to determine best cultural practices for producing various bioenergy crops. Crop rotation studies are undertaken to identify optical rotation strategies for integrating biofuel crops into traditional cropping systems. New mechanical systems and methods are developed for harvesting biological feedstocks and transporting them to conversion plants.
Researchers evaluate the breakdown and conversion of various biological feedstocks (crop residues, woody material, and municipal waste). In addition, they develop systems for farm-scale conversion of straw to energy and ascertain the potential usefulness of co-products of conversion e.g., oilseed crop residue as a biofumigant to control soilborne pathogens, bio-char as a soil amendment for stabilizing soil carbon, and distillers grains as a source of soil nutrients.