U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through South Central Region Sun Grant Program awards grants up to $324,000 for three regional projects that aimed at enhancing perennial grass production and biomass conversion into biofuels. The funds will supplement research activities of three existing projects that resulted from the 2012 USDA-NIFA S.C.R. Sun Grant’s competition. The Integrated Award recipients are:
- Dr. Laura Bartley of the University of Oklahoma (OU), Norman, will receive up to $110,000 to determine how chemically and physically altering sorghum and switchgrass biomass impacts production of biofuels using two‐stage thermal processing. This project will generate data and understanding of the relationships between plant structure and composition and yield, quality and refinability of bio-oil produced from switchgrass and sorghum varieties. This understanding will directly contribute to the development of optimal feedstock-conversion biorefineries. This project is a collaborative effort with Drs. Richard Mallinson and Lance Lobban (OU) and Dr. John Mullet (Texas A & M University).
- Dr. Newell Kitchen of USDA-ARS and University of Missouri, Columbia, will receive up to $103, 962 to assess soil health remediation and production capacity of miscanthus and switchgrass bioenergy cropping systems on marginal and vulnerable soil landscapes in Missouri and Arkansas. Knowledge gained from this research will quantify the effects of switchgrass and miscanthus on soil health and biomass production, and will generate several bioenergy crop best management practices (BMPs). Dr. Kitchen is collaborating with Drs. Kenneth Sudduth, and Kristen Veum of USDA-ARS, Dr. Emily Heaton (Iowa State University), Drs. Robert Kremer, Allen Thompson, Brenton Myers, and Ray Massey (University of Missouri).
- Dr. Mark Wilkins of Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, will receive up to $110,000 to develop a practical and low cost handling and pretreatment protocols that enhance the enzymatic digestibility of polysaccharides that are contained in cellulosic feedstocks while minimizing concentrations of generated inhibitory sugar and lignin degradation products. Researchers expect to: 1) reduce pretreatment severity and energy use while achieving fermentable sugar yields, 2) reduce production of inhibitory compounds, and 3) develop operating parameters and techniques to apply fungal pretreatment during switchgrass storage in a biorefinery setting. This project is a joint effort with Dr. Julie Carrier (University of Arkansas), and Drs. Michael Buser and Stephen Marek (OSU).