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Economically Optimum Production of Both the Agricultural Biomass Feedstock and the Crop

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  036079,  2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.15401)
Authors:   Reed L. Hoskinson, Raymond K. Fink, Randy D. Lee, Kevin L. Kenney, Larry G. Blackwood, Ronald C. Rope
Keywords:   Wheat, straw, variable-rate fertilization, crop residue, bioenergy, economic optimum

The Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group to President George W. Bush, titled the National Energy Policy, recognized renewable and alternative energy sectors as among the fastest growing in the United States, and identified biomass as one source for renewable energy.

Agricultural crop residues are a significant renewable biomass resource from which to produce not only energy but also biobased products. In 2001, American farmers harvested 68.8 million acres of corn for grain, 48.7 million acres of wheat, and 4.3 million acres of barley. The available crop residues from these acreages represent a significant amount of available and renewable biomass.

But for many years, research in support of crop production methodologies has been aimed at producing the best economic return to the farmer for the grain. In most cases, the crop residue production was either ignored, or the secondary objective of the research was to reduce the residue produced. Corn stalks have become shorter and thinner. Wheat stems have shortened.

Now, in support of our national policies, interest in using crop residues as a biomass feedstock has risen. With this growing interest in crop residues, economically optimum simultaneous production of both the grain and the crop residue becomes of significant interest.

In our paper we discuss new strategies for grain production involving optimum variable-rate fertilization of the crop for the simultaneous production of both the grain and the crop residue biomass. This ongoing research involved a full-field test in 2002 in which the goal was economically optimized simultaneous production of wheat and straw using site-specific variable-rate fertilization. Results from the 2002 harvest suggest some improvement over using traditional uniform fertilization, but economically efficient biomass production was not accomplished. Ongoing field tests are being conducted in 2003 using information gained in the 2002 field tests.

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