Iowa State researchers developing machinery to harvest corn stalks and leaves

December 11, 2006

AMES, Iowa -- A John Deere 9750 STS combine slowly made its way through an Iowa State University research field, all the while dumping a crop of corn kernels into the combine's hopper and blowing a crop of stalks, cobs and leaves into a trailing wagon.

That dual-stream, single-pass harvesting system was developed by Stuart Birrell, an Iowa State associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, and graduate students Mark Dilts and Ben Schlesser. They're working to design, build and test machinery that will harvest corn stover -- the stalks, cobs and leaves -- when farmers bring in their grain. The stover could be the source of plant fiber that feeds the next generation of ethanol plants.

The researchers ran their latest version of a stover harvester through about 50 acres of corn near Ames this fall. Birrell recently showed some video of the tests on his office computer and explained how the system works.

The researchers are developing stover attachments that can be used on standard combines. The result would be an additional cost to farmers of about $10,000 to $15,000 instead of the six figures it would take for a separate combine to harvest stover. The attachments would also allow farmers to harvest grain and stover with one pass through a field.

The system the researchers have come up with includes a modified row crop header and corn reel attached to the front of the combine and a chopper and blower attached to the back.

The header and reel feed leaves and stalks into the combine so the biomass can be harvested before it touches the ground and is contaminated with soil. The chopper cuts stover into 2-inch pieces. And the blower throws the chopped stover into a wagon.

Although tests with the prototype machine have been successful, Birrell said there is more development work to do: Birrell said development of a stover harvesting system has been constrained by a lack of research funding. "Significant resources have been dedicated to the process of converting cellulose into ethanol," he said. "But very little has gone into answering how do you get a supply of stover from the field to the biorefinery. This will be critical to the success of the bioeconomy."
-end-
Birrell's stover harvesting research has been supported by a three-year, $180,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy and a two-year, $50,000 grant from Deere & Company of Moline, Ill.

Contacts: Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917, mkrapfl@iastate.edu

Iowa State University

Related Ethanol Articles from Brightsurf:

Spraying ethanol to nanofiber masks makes them reusable
A joint research team from POSTECH and Japan's Shinshu University evaluates the filtration efficiency of nanofiber and melt-blown filters when cleaned with ethanol.

Anaerobically disinfect soil to increase phosphorus using diluted ethanol
Anaerobic disinfection of soil is an effective method to kill unwanted bacteria, parasites and weeds without using chemical pesticides.

Fractionation processes can improve profitability of ethanol production
The US is the world's largest producer of bioethanol as renewable liquid fuel, with more than 200 commercial plants processing over 16 billion gallons per year.

Ethanol fuels large-scale expansion of Brazil's farming land
A University of Queensland-led study has revealed that future demand for ethanol biofuel could potentially expand sugarcane farming land in Brazil by 5 million hectares by 2030.

Measuring ethanol's deadly twin
ETH Zurich researchers have developed an inexpensive, handheld measuring device that can distinguish between methanol and potable alcohol.

Modified enzyme can increase second-generation ethanol production
Using a protein produced by a fungus that lives in the Amazon, Brazilian researchers developed a molecule capable of increasing glucose release from biomass for fermentation.

Scientists develop a chemocatalytic approach for one-pot reaction of cellulosic ethanol
Scientists at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a chemocatalytic approach to convert cellulose into ethanol in a one-pot process by using a multifunctional Mo/Pt/WOx catalyst.

New core-shell catalyst for ethanol fuel cells
Scientists at Brookhaven Lab and the University of Arkansas have developed a highly efficient catalyst for extracting electrical energy from ethanol, an easy-to-store liquid fuel that can be generated from renewable resources.

Yeast makes ethanol to prevent metabolic overload
Why do some yeast cells produce ethanol? Scientists have wondered about this apparent waste of resources for decades.

Corncob ethanol may help cut China's greenhouse gas emissions
A new Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining study has found that using ethanol from corncobs for energy production may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in China, if used instead of starch-based ethanol.

Read More: Ethanol News and Ethanol Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.