Katie Allen, Farm Journal Contributing Editor
From trade show exhibits to educational sessions, attendees of the Ag Connect Expo are learning about the latest technologies in agriculture and how to make farm practices more sustainable. The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) is holding its Agricultural Equipment Technology Conference in conjunction with AG CONNECT in Orlando January 10-13. The many breakout sessions include discussions about renewable energy and harvesting crop and crop residue for ethanol in more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly ways.
Matt Darr, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University, says he has been looking at ways to reduce biofuel production, collection, storage, and transportation costs while using the most effective means to sustainably harvest corn and corn stover, the non-grain part of the plant, for biofuel production. Darr says the single-pass harvest system through a field is an effective method to harvest cobs for cellulosic ethanol, as it leaves enough ground residue to help the soil and prevent erosion.
"Any soybean field after harvest does not leave as much residue (as corn fields after single-pass cob harvest),” Darr says.
While Darr believes single-pass harvest is optimal for cob harvest, many improvements would make the biomass a more feasible source to make ethanol. These improvements include improving the density of the biomass material, having higher collection rates, refining the combine for effective single-pass collection, and reducing unloading interference.