ADM, Deere, Monsanto to research corn stover

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted August 29, 2008 at 9:44 a.m. CST

On a mission to explore technologies and processes which may turn crop residues into feed and bioenergy products, Illinois-based Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Deere & Co., and Missouri-based Monsanto Co. are collaborating to identify environmentally and economically sustainable methods to harvest, store and transport corn stover.

After harvest, corn stover, or the leaves and stocks of the plants, remain in the field. It can make up half of a crop's yield and can be used as animal feed, biomass for steam generation or electricity, or as a cellulosic feedstock for the production of biofuels. The USDA has forecasted a 2008 corn harvest of 12.3 billion bushels, potentially generating 290 million tons of corn stover.

The companies expect to face a number of challenges such as collecting stover at rates that will ensure sufficient residue remains on the soil to minimize soil erosion and maintain or improve soil quality, as well as, careful monitoring of moisture content in the corn stover at harvest for effective transportation and storage methods.

"Using non-food feedstocks for feed and energy is one way that agriculture can apply innovation to create renewable, sustainable solutions," said Todd Werpy, ADM vice president of research. "This collaborative effort brings together three agricultural leaders to identify and address the complexities that come with commercializing a new feedstock." ADM, which is one of the largest agricultural processors in the world, announced in mid-August it had signed an agreement with Campa Sued GmbH & Co. KG to acquire a rapeseed crushing plant in southern Germany.

"Expansions in biorenewable energy are possible if we are able to combine productivity and sustainability improvements in agriculture and forestry with a variety of biomass feedstocks and the most applicable conversion technologies," said Klaus Hoehn, vice president of advanced technology and engineering for Deere & Co. "We are hopeful the collaboration of our companies will lead to innovative technologies to improve collection and provisioning of biomass feedstocks, such as corn stover."

"Advanced biotechnologies are protecting plants better than ever, helping the plants to achieve their full grain yield potential," said Robb Fraley, Monsanto chief technology officer. Achieving this potential, he said, also means having healthier, larger plants producing even more biomass. "It's an exciting area of research to focus on and we're pleased to be a part of it," Fraley added.

On Aug. 28, Monsanto, which provides technology-based solutions and agricultural products focused on improving farm productivity and food quality, announced a five-year research and development collaboration with Evogene Ltd to focus on identifying key plant genes related to yield, environmental stress and fertilizer utilization.