ISU New Century Farm to Integrate Growing and Processing Crops

June 20th, 2007

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State University is creating the first integrated and sustainable biofuel and bioproducts feedstock production system of its kind on a research farm in Boone County.

The "ISU New Century Farm," is to be constructed west of the Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm, and will include harvest, storage, transportation, handling and biomass processing facilities. Biomass crops destined for use as bioenergy and bioproducts will be grown on the New Century Farm and other area Iowa State research farms.

"The farm will serve as a living laboratory for developing and testing sustainable biomass systems by integrating agronomic, environmental and socio-economic research," said Joe Colletti, senior associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "It will be directly linked to molecular and traditional plant sciences as well as to advanced processing research and engineering."

He said it is widely recognized that corn grain alone won't support the renewable fuels economy and that a variety of annual and perennial cellulosic crops are needed to complement corn and soybean production.

"The biomass processing facility will allow researchers to study process systems to turn a variety of biomass materials into bio-oil or synthetic gas by using thermochemical technologies or into ethanol and industrial chemicals by fermentation," said Larry Johnson, director of the Center for Crops Utilization Research.

"This facility will allow ISU researchers and industry partners to test and demonstrate processing system technologies before going commercial," Johnson said.

Basic and applied research will be conducted to achieve short-term and long-term advances in biorenewable fuels and biobased products. The New Century Farm also will provide a needed venue for education and training.

The New Century Farm's vision will include:

Research that brings together scientific expertise to address biomass cropping systems, biofuel and bioproduct processing, logistics of biomass supply and positive environmental effects such as recycling nutrients back to the land.
Teaching that serves as a laboratory and resource for training future scientists, producers and extension experts.
Extension that demonstrates economic, social and environmental viability of biorenewable energy and bioproducts production to producers, policymakers and the public.
Outreach with companies that will work with Iowa State in collaborative research and development.

Construction is scheduled to begin this fall with a completion date for the main facility of Fall 2008. The biomass processing facility will be completed first, followed by offices and laboratories and field research infrastructure.

The initial infrastructure costs are estimated at $19 million with funds coming from state, federal and private sources. Annual operating costs will be covered by research projects.

Editor's note: This release can be downloaded from the Communication Service Web page. The URL is: www.ag.iastate.edu/aginfo/news_releases.php. If you would like a version of the release e-mailed to you, call the Communication Service contact listed.

Contacts: 

Joe Colletti, College Administration, (515) 294-1823, colletti@iastate.edu
Larry Johnson, Center for Crops Utilization Research, (515) 294-4365, ljohnson@iastate.edu
Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communication Service, (515) 294-2314, edadcock@iastate.edu