The collection of corn cobs, leaves and husks from corn fields, for use in the production of cellulosic ethanol, is not harmful to soil quality or the environment.
That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by the USDA and Iowa State University. Researchers say that, when done properly, the harvesting of biomass and production of cellulosic ethanol will reduce greenhouse gas emissions without contributing to soil degradation.
Adam Wirt, director of biomass for POET, says the new study helps validate the sustainability of biomass harvesting.
“Taking 20 to 25 percent of the residue and making sure we’re doing it on high productivity fields that have very minimal slopes, we’re not seeing negative impacts. We’re actually seeing the inverse,” Wirt says. “We’re seeing yield increases because of that and we’re able to start seeing some tillage reductions from our growers.
“So we’re able to actually start seeing farming practices change for the better because of this.”
POET-DSM is currently finishing construction on its 25 million gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
“We’ve started some unit operation and validation runs and hope to be up and fully operational here in the next few months,” says Wirt.
Two other commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plants are also in their final phases of construction. Abengoa plans to start up its plant near Hugoton, Kansas in early July. And officials with the DuPont cellulosic ethanol plant being built near Nevada, Iowa say they will begin operations by the end of the year.
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