Miscanthus research in Iowa

The Iowa State University is looking hard at Miscanthus as a potential biofuel feedstock, says the Des Moines Register.

Miscanthus, on the other hand, holds the potential to make up to 2timesas much ethanol per ton as corn. A University of Illinois study in 2005showed that using corn or switchgrass to produce enough ethanol tooffset 20 percent of gasoline use — a current federal government goal –would take 25 percent of current U.S. cropland out of food production.

That’s got to be better than corn: a technology that takes two bushels of food out of the equation for every three that are processed into ethanol.

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3 Responses to Miscanthus research in Iowa

  1. larry hagedon 5 September, 2008 at 1:48 am #

    I wish they would quit repeating that false premise that we are taking even one acre out of food production to grow fuel. It is simply not true. We are keeping the food and fuel markets both well saturaterd and the more those markets expand, the more food and fuel we produce.

    If we could sell more corn for food, we would grow more corn and process it for all the various corn products, including food.

    There is no shortage of either corn or fuel for todays markets and processing capacity, and we need more markets so we can keep ramping up production of food and fuel and all the other co-products too.

    There will be shakeups coming periodicaly, as the less competitive food, energy and other producers go under and are snapped up by the better managed firms.

    The surviving companies will keep upgrading their technolgies for a very long time to come. The survivors in the corn processing firms will be the ones getting the most and least costly fuel and food, animal feed and pharmaceuticals and plastics and industrial chemicals, all out of a bushel of corn.

    Soon, in order to be competitive, corn processors will have to grow and process green algae to use up their waste streams like CO2. Most of them will contract the growing of the algae out to the algae specialists. Corn processing plants will need corn cob processing plants next door.

    Iowas 1.5 billion dollar Corn Processing Center, dumping one semi load of corn every 2.5 minutes, had 4 or 5 independent processors passing the corn from company to company, each processing out their specialty products. They have around 3 dozen products they produce, including a lot of food ingredients and various fuels and they sell enough corn syrup to sweeten somehing like 3 billion soft drinks a year.

    It is todays replay of the old meat packing houses using up all of the hog but the squeal.

    Fuel is very often becoming the by-product of processing various feedstocks for other uses like food and animal feed. It is becoming a low profit margin, high volume commodity co-product that processors can not afford to ignore.

    Unlike corn, nearly 100 percent of soybeans are processd for best uses. Google Louis Dreyfus for soybeans. Bio-diesel got started because we had billions of gallons of surplus soy oil in storage and needed a market for it.

    larry

  2. Simon Robinson 5 September, 2008 at 2:10 pm #

    Larry,
    Imagine I have 12 acres of land and they each grow three pounds of corn and this is the only corn in the world. A the end of the harvest I have thirty six pounds of corn. If I sell a quarter of the crop to the ethanol market and they process it into ethanol. Then the total amount of corn left in the world is going to be 27 lbs. Fermenting 9lbs corn to ethanol is going to generate 3 lbs of ethanol, 3 lbs of carbon dioxide (which is lost to the atmosphere) and around, 3 lbs of distillers grains. The total amount of stuff left for food is going to be 30lbs. The world will be 6 lbs down from the harvest. It doesn’t matter that the distillers grains are packed with goodness and energy there has got to be less energy in 1lb distillers grains than in 3lbs of corn. There has to be less overall at the end of the process than at the start because by fermenting the corn into ethanol we’re shoving 6lbs weight of corn up the chimney/out the tail pipe. We lose 1/6 of the total crop.
    Of course if local demand is only 29lbs we’re laughing. We have a market that is in balance the farmers stand a chance of making some money and and enough to set aside a little for a bad harvest and export some .

    Now imagine that I’ve produced my 36 lbs of corn and taken them to market, only to find that I can buy it on that market more cheaply than I can sell it for. What am I going to do? grow corn, food crops or buy them, leave the land and move to the city where I might get a paying job. Which I do. Next year, the imports dry up, there are no farmers left and the price of corn rockets in my local market

    Please read this file from Christian Aid, a middle of the road aid organisation, and let me know what you think. http://www.christian-aid.org/Images/food_report_2008.pdf

    We need to get away from food crops for fuel, which is some thing I think we both agree on.

  3. Jean Noel AHONDJON 9 March, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    Hi
    Ivorian of 32 and interested by miscanthus`s aplications,I took 5 years to know more about this plant and to build a project which can be an answer for energy independance and a solution of atmosphere.
    I have the lands here and I need some contacts to help me to create an important network of miscanthus farms based on 200 acres at the beguining here in Ivory coast.

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