ISU corn stover training paying off for Iowa small businesses and startup companies

In the cornfields of central Iowa last fall, employees of newly created, small, local businesses prepared and collected corn stover — the stalks, leaves, and cobs left after grain harvest — as feedstock for the DuPont Biofuels Solutions cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, which launched production in the fall. The corn stover harvesters were trained by and had access to support from Iowa State University researchers, who continue to work to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

“What we are trying to do is put a supply chain in place as was done for corn, beginning in the 1800s and evolving into what we have today. But stover bales are a bulkier product and we need that supply chain to fully evolve over just a few years,” said Matthew Darr, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering.

Farmers with animals have harvested corn stover for bedding and silage for decades. But collecting stover as biofuel feedstock and creating and managing a corn stover supply chain on an industrial scale is new to Iowa corn producers and biorefinery operators.

In 2009, the Iowa State corn stover supply chain research team led by Darr, began working with DuPont at the BioCentury Research Farm researching ways to grow and develop an industrial feedstock supply chain and achieve a quality and economically viable product for biorefineries, while maintaining soil health and quality.

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