How could the development of corn stover for cellulosic ethanol affect corn and soybean markets? And, how could it affect the traditional corn-soybean crop rotation in the U.S.?
Purdue University researchers went looking for the answers to those questions in a recent project, "Development of Corn Stover Biofuel: Impacts on Corn and Soybean Markets and Crop Rotation," published by the Canadian Center of Science and Education.
Corn stover is considered a "second-generation" biofuel feedstock because it involves transforming the cellulosic material in the stover to biofuels instead of using the corn starch as in conventional corn ethanol.
Report lead author Farzad Taheripour said the development of second-generation biofuels is critically important to advancing the biofuels industry.
"First-generation biofuels, produced from food crops, will not be able to replace a large portion of the oil-based liquid fuels because a rapid expansion in these biofuels could have adverse impacts on our food supply," he explained.
If technology and government support become economically viable, converting corn stover to biofuels would affect farmers' planting decisions and crop rotation practices across the Midwest. Corn production might also expand to other areas not historically considered corn-producing.
The researchers also projected that with a viable corn stover market and stover at a farm price of $85.40 a ton, a large majority of farmers would find it profitable to harvest stover.
Ultimately, they said, if converting corn stover to biofuel becomes profitable, either because of market forces or government supports, then farmers would consider revenue from both stover and corn in making planting decisions, the researchers said. If the joint profits from corn and corn stover are higher than from soybean production, the researchers said farmers likely would grow more corn.
Find the complete corn stover/crop rotation study online.