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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Northeast Woody/warm-Season Biomass Consortium: Development and Sustainable Production of Regionally-Appropriate Biomass Feedstocks

Location: Sustainable Biofuels and Co-Products

Project Number: 8072-41000-082-12
Project Type: Reimbursable

Start Date: Sep 01, 2012
End Date: Aug 31, 2015

Objective:
1. Optimize growth of dedicated short rotation woody crops and warm-season grasses on marginal and abandoned lands. 2. Identify new approaches to sustainable management of SRWC and perennial grasses. 3. Demonstrate safe, efficient and effective strategies for biomass harvest and logistics. 4. Evaluate biomass characteristics and supply chain transformations to maximize feedstock value for commercial partners. 5. Develop and deploy a sustainability assessment toolkit for regional biomass systems. 6. Assess the role of biomass production and policy on economic and community development. 7. Engage the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs, employees, and citizens in science based research, education and outreach. 8. Evaluate stakeholder engagement strategies to build transdisciplinary research capacity.

Approach:
NEWBIO will focus on two categories of biomass feedstocks: (1) short rotation woody crops (willow and poplar); and (2) perennial warm-season grasses (switchgrass and miscanthus) that can be grown on marginal agricultural land. Activities will be focused on several large demonstration projects; each will include biomass production and supply chains operating at commercial scale, in a specific community and with a real industrial customer. This will create a platform for integrated and transdisciplinary research, education and outreach. Around these demonstrations we will build educational and outreach programs across the region, using our network of extension educators, business and economic development organizations, community colleges, and regional universities to support landowner decisionmaking, business development, workforce training, citizen and policymaker engagement, and K-12 STEM through college degrees. Associated with these demonstration sites we will evaluate, demonstrate and define best management practices for growing and harvesting woody and warm-season biomass feedstocks. These efforts will include establishment, pest and weed control; nutrient management; long term productivity; plant ecophysiology; and other factors that will allow producers to achieve high yields on a wide range of sites, as well as support development of site-specific feedstock productivity models for the region. We will collaborate with commercial partners with established breeding programs to supply improved varieties of poplar, switchgrass and miscanthus. New varieties of each species will then be tested on marginal and abandoned lands across the region. The NEWBIO demonstration sites will also provide a platform for development of cost efficient harvest and logistics strategies in integrated value chains. We will analyze truck and short-line rail transportation techniques for a system of satellite preprocessing facilities based on pelletization, torrefaction and hemicellulose extraction, each with a commercialization partner. We will develop worker safety protocols and training modules to identify and address hazards throughout the supply chain. Using an ecosystem services framework, we will conduct rigorous, spatially-enabled multicriteria analysis and life cycle analysis of soil, water, greenhouse gas emissions, land use changes, wildlife habitat, recreation and other sustainability metrics for each demonstration location, as well as a wide range of logistics, pre-processing and landscape-scaled scenarios. Socio-economic indicators and policy constraints will also be analyzed, with a goal to improve rural development outcomes. NEWBIO will engage diverse stakeholders in the demonstration regions, and couple them with researchers at the partner universities to facilitate cluster development for the bioenergy industry, encouraging entrepreneurship, identifying barriers, addressing critical needs and building capacity.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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