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INSTITUTE FOR SUSTAINABILITY, ENERGY, AND ENVIRONMENT
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
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Next-Gen Feedstocks project

 

Project Overview

icon-natureThe Next-Gen Feedstocks Project fits into the iSEE research themes of Energy Transitions and Secure and Sustainable Agriculture.

 

In Lead Investigator D.K. Lee’s words:

“To provide sustainable sources of energy for an ever-growing world population, we must build a new energy plan on a bioeconomy platform. That means, for starters, that we need to know which energy crops will be the most productive and valuable — and best for the environment.

“We have titled our study ‘Next-Generation Feedstocks for the Emerging Bioeconomy.’ Thanks to a generous $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, our team will study new crops that could contribute to the production of affordable, sustainable sources for market-ready fuels and other valuable products.

“Our team will assess field-scale yield of advanced switchgrass varieties such as ‘Independence’ (developed by Lee) for pre-commercialization. We also will examine other warm-season perennial grasses such as switchgrass blends, big bluestem, prairie cordgrass, and Miscanthus.

“Members of our team have worked together on past projects, and we will build on our successful history. We will use data from geographically distributed field trials, combined with ecosystem, logistical, and techno-economic analyses, to learn what new varieties of energy crops will best be suited to produce the best fuels and most valuable products.”


Project News

Principal Investigator D.K. Lee offers updates from the middle of Year 1 on this U.S. Department of Energy-funded project:

“Two locations (Brighton, Ill., and the Illinois Energy Farm in Urbana) are used for switchgrass cultivation and ecosystem service measurements.”

In Brighton:

  • Corn was planted on June 3, 2020.
  • Biweekly ecosystem service measurements are continuous (soil gas emissions, soil water collections, etc.).
  • Avian acoustic monitoring devices (pictured left in the cornfield and right in the Independence switchgrass field) were installed on June 9, 2020.
  • Aerial images are continuously taken biweekly.

At the Energy Farm:

  • Soil sampling was finished, and GPS coordinates were recorded.
  • Switchgrass (Independence and Liberty) and corn (DeKalb DKC60-87RIB at 34,000 seeds/acre) were planted.
  • Ecosystem service measurement devices were installed, including Macrorhizons for soil water collections, chamber collars for soil gas measurements, and ion-exchange resins for annual nitrate-leaching estimations.
  • Small plot planting was finished.
  • Aerial images are continuously taken biweekly.

At Iowa State University sites:

  • No-till corn (Hybrid: p1197AM at ~33,000 seeds per acre) was planted on April 29, 2020, and sprayed with Buctril and Laudis on June 11.
  • In the large switchgrass plots and small plots, 2,4-D at 0.3 qt per acre was applied on June 4, and Stinger at 0.4 pts per acre and 2,4-D at 1 pt/acre (Ester forumulation) on July 1.
  • Nitrogen fertilizer (UAN 32%) was applied by design in the large switchgrass plots on June 4.
  • Miscanthus was planted in small plots on June 4.
  • Frequency measurements were taken in the large and small plots.
  • Sampling plots in Liberty and corn plots were established, with rain gauges in the switchgrass. Base set for the gas sampling later.
  • Leaf area index, stem width, height, chlorophyll concentration were all measured, plot corners were marked, and GPS coordinates were recorded for repeated sampling of the same location.

On July 22-25, 2019, the Next-Gen Feedstocks team and PI D.K. Lee hosted the Switchgrass V International Conference, titled “Dedicated Energy Crops and Native Grasses for the Emerging Bioeconomy.”

Sponsored by the U of I Department of Crop Sciences, iSEE, the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), Green Lands Blue Waters, Ernst Conservation Seeds, and the Sun Grant Initiative’s North Central Regional Center, the conference at the Holiday Inn was a discussion about switchgrass and other dedicated energy crops grown for forage, conservation, and bioenergy production.

More than 100 scientists attended the conference.

Read more >>>

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) was instrumental in helping the team land the $5 million U.S. Department of Energy grant.

iSEE, which helped put forth the successful proposal, is an administrative partner along with the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) in the new Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), a DOE Bioenergy Research Center that is studying energy crop trait improvement; automated conversion of biomass into useful, valuable chemicals; and studies on the economic and environmental sustainability of CABBI crops and processes.

“By including CABBI, the national labs, and industry members, along with other partners’ large Midwest energy crop research sites, we can loop our real-world data into today’s bioeconomy industry,” said PI D.K. Lee, a Professor of Crop Sciences. “This will help us find the right varieties of grasses — and speed adoption of practices that increase the growth of this new energy supply while reducing cost.

“I’m grateful to (iSEE and CABBI Director) Evan H. DeLucia and the iSEE team for helping us put together a successful proposal.”

Read the full news announcement >>>


The Team

Principal Investigator D.K. Lee in a switchgrass field with some of his team members from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Photo by Jordan Goebig / iSEE

Principal Investigator (PI) and co-PIs

  • D.K. Lee (PI), Professor of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Departmental page >>>
    Lab page >>>
  • David Archer, Agricultural Economist, U.S. Department of Agricultures Agricultural Research Service (Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, Mandan, N.D.)
    USDA ARS page >>>
  • Arvid Boe, Professor of Agronomy, Horticulture, and Plant Science, South Dakota State University
    Departmental page >>>
  • Kevin Comer, Principal and Senior Project Manager, Antares Group Inc.
    Company page >>>
  • Serge Edme, Research Geneticist, U.S. Department of Agricultures Agricultural Research Service (Wheat, Sorghum, and Forage Research, Lincoln, Neb.)
    USDA ARS page >>>
  • Emily Heaton, Assistant Professor of Biomass Crop Production, Iowa State University
    Departmental/lab page >>>
  • Amber Hoover, Research Scientist, Idaho National Laboratory Biofuels and Renewable Energy Technologies Department
    INL page >>>
  • Kirk LaGory, Department Head, Water and Aquatic Resources, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) Environmental Science Division (ESD)
    ANL page >>>
  • Umakant Mishra, Geospatial Scientist, ANL ESD
    ANL page >>>
  • Robert Mitchell, Research Agronomist, U.S. Department of Agricultures Agricultural Research Service (Wheat, Sorghum, and Forage Research, Lincoln, Neb.)
    USDA ARS page >>>
  • Cristina Negri, Director, ANL ESD
    ANL page >>>
  • Vance Owens, Regional Director, North Central Regional Sun Grant Center, South Dakota State University
    Departmental page >>>

Operating Team (Postdocs, Technicians, Students)

  • Yuki Hamada, Biophysical Remote Sensing Scientist, ANL ESD
    ANL page >>>
  • Nic Boersma, Staff Scientist, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University
    Departmental page >>>
  • Jules Cacho, Postdoctoral Appointee, ANL ESD
    ANL page >>>
  • Cheng-Hsien Lin, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Colleen Zumpf, Postdoctoral Appointee, ANL ESD
    ANL page >>>
  • Erik Kinkelaar, Field Technician in Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Nictor Namoi, Ph.D. Candidate in Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Alex Steiner, Ph.D. Candidate in Agronomy, Iowa State University
    Departmental page >>>
  • Nora Grasse, Research Aide, ANL ESD
  • Perla Carmenate, Undergraduate in Agronomy, Iowa State University
  • Maddy Connell, Undergraduate in Agronomy, Iowa State University
  • Collin DeGraaf, Undergraduate in Agronomy, Iowa State University
  • Aaryn Graeves, Undergraduate in Agronomy, Iowa State University

Industry Partners/Collaborators

  • Dave Bushong, Senior Vice President of Research, POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels LLC
  • Frank Dohleman, External Stakeholder Lead, Science, The Climate Corp.
  • Matt Lechtenberg, Water Quality Coordinator, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
  • Kevin Mason, Vice President of Operations, FDC Enterprises
  • Lucy Miller, Enginuity Worldwide LLC

Publications & Presentations

Coming soon!

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