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Can Producing Biomass Pay?

One combine, one crop, two products. This combine has been modified to handle two crop streams: the traditional one – corn grain – and the rest of the plant, for eventual use in production of biomass-based fuels. In front is a modified harvesting head that gathers the whole plant, rather than just the ears. In back is a system that chops and blows everything but the grain into a trailing wagon. “People have been harvesting corn stover for a long time. But they”ve always had to leave it in the field and then come back to shred, rake and bale it. All of that adds cost,” points out agricultural engineer Kevin Shinners. “Our objective is single-pass harvesting.” Keeping down costs is a key to making biologically based fuels an economical alternative to fossil fuels and a profitable enterprise for farmers, Shinners adds. His research focuses on harvesting, transportation and storage of corn stover and other dedicated energy crops. It”s part of a large, multi-state, multidisciplinary project on biomass fuels funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Shinners” work is also supported by John Deere – it provided the combine – and other sources interested in improving the rural economy by developing bio-based products.
Bob Mitchel