Biofuels Update: John Deere and Hillco Partner for Cob Collection

October 27, 2010 09:09 AM

John Deere and Hillco Partner for Cob Collection

Photo B Hillco Cob Collection SystemWorking together, John Deere and Hillco Technologies, Inc., have engineered a cob collection system for John Deere STS (single-tine separation) combines. The system provides harvest of grain and cobs with one pass through the field.

The Hillco Cob Collection System attaches to the rear of the combine without additional welding or cutting. After installing the system for the first time, which can take around a day and a half, uninstalling and reinstalling takes only an hour or two.

Two fans in the cleaning chamber feature adjustable settings. Operators can engage the system and collect from 70% cobs by weight to up to 90% cobs by weight.

The system uses either a combine-pulled or tractor-pulled dump cart to collect the cobs. The system is engaged with one button and can be turned off to return to solely harvesting grain, which enables farmers to leave it installed during soybean harvest.

Lenny Hill, president of Hillco, says his company’s experience with combine leveling systems aided in development and co-engineering of the product with John Deere.

The Hillco Cob Collection System is approved by John Deere for use with its 9670, 9770 and 9870 model STS combines. All original combine warranties remain in full effect after the installation of the system. ­­

Microbes Aid in Biomass Conversion

Photo A A field of corn stoverUSDA scientists are using genetic materials from a cow’s rumen to help convert corn stover and switchgrass into biofuel.

To begin the conversion, the plant fibers must be broken down into sugars. But their cell wall polymers are cross-linked in ways that make them resistant to this first step, says Dominic Wong, a chemist at the USDA–Agricultural Research Service Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif.

Studies have shown that a group of enzymes known as feruloyl esterases (FAE) can break apart key links between the polymers. These enzymes are produced by certain types of microbes that degrade plant materials. Wong collected the microbes from a cow’s rumen and studied their genetic composition to find the genes that produce FAE enzymes.

Working with Cargill, he then isolated, sequenced and cloned 12 genes that can be introduced into E. coli bacteria from a cow’s rumen to produce FAE enzymes. These could then be used to break up the polymeric network in the plants’ cell walls.

FAE enzymes could also be used to enhance the digestibility and nutritional quality of animal feeds and to develop nutritional supplements and other products. Wong and Cargill have filed a provisional patent application on the genes and enzymes.

More Problems Found with EPA Calculations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) erred in calculating the carbon intensity of corn ethanol and other biofuels when creating the Renewable Fuels Standard, according to an analysis by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). In an Aug. 4 letter to the EPA, RFA claims the agency “grossly overestimated potential emissions from land-use change attributable to the greenhouse gas (GHG) life cycle of corn ethanol and other biofuels.”

Correcting the error, RFA says, would greatly increase the GHG reduction benefits offered by ethanol under EPA’s calculations. RFA has previously maintained that the inclusion of land-use-change impacts, particularly the international impacts over which the U.S. has no control, is part
of a flawed policy and that EPA misinterpreted the intent of Congress when it passed the Renewable Fuels Standard.

The error, according to RFA, stemmed from EPA’s decision to isolate the land-use-change impacts of individual biofuels by increasing their production one at a time and holding all other biofuels at constant levels. RFA says the model should have simultaneously increased production for all biofuels. “Attempting to isolate the potential impacts of individual biofuels results in significantly exaggerated estimates of the…GHG intensity of corn ethanol and other biofuels,” the letter says.
The errors are symptomatic of a larger concern about attempts to limit emission from vehicles by unfairly penalizing biofuels, says Geoff Cooper, RFA vice president of research and analysis.

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