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Variation in Corn Stover Composition and Energy with Crop Maturity

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

Citation:  Paper number  036085,  2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.15455)
Authors:   L. O. Pordesimo, B. R. Hames, W. C. Edens, S. Sokhansanj
Keywords:   corn stover, stover fractions, chemical composition, energy value

A key issue that needs addressing for industrial utilization of corn stover is "How to harvest and process corn stover to maximize its quality as a fuel (or industrial feedstock), minimize material losses, minimize environmental impacts, and improve handling efficiencies." Development of strategies/systems for the postharvest handling of corn stover involves quantifying the distribution of stover biomass in the different above ground botanical fractions of the corn plant over time after physiological maturity of the grain has been reached. Understanding the composition of corn stover fractions and their energy value around the time of corn kernel physiological maturity are valuable data in process design. The objectives of this investigation were to evaluate the variation in the chemical composition and energy value of the above ground components of the corn plant over time and to evaluate how composition changes after grain physiological maturity has been reached and the plants are weathered. Above ground biomass distribution and composition of two corn cultivars (Pioneer 32K61 and 32K64 Bt) were studied from an estimated two weeks before corn kernel physiological maturity until four weeks after the grain had reached a moisture content suitable for combine harvesting. Compositional analysis of corn stover fractions gathered over the course of senescence and weathering using rapid analysis near-infrared spectroscopy showed 1) a quick drop in soluble glucan, 2) increase in lignin, and 3) increase in xylan. These changes occurred shortly after grain physiological maturity. By day 151, about when the grain was harvested at about 15.5% moisture, composition of the different fractions remained fairly constant. After grain physiological maturity, gross energy of the stover fractions clustered around 4000-5000 cal/g.

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