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Corn Harvest Strategies for Combined Starch and Cellulosic Bioprocessing to Ethanol

Gao, Juan, Qian, Leilei, Thelen, Kurt D., Hao, Xinmei, Sousa, Leonardo da Costa, Lau, Ming Woei, Balan, Vankatesh, Dale, Bruce E.
Agronomy journal 2011 v.103 no.3 pp. 844-850
Zea mays, bioethanol, biomass, bioprocessing, biorefining, biotransformation, corn, corn stover, ethanol, ethanol production, feedstocks, harvesting, lignin, silage making, starch, xylan
Conventional harvest and ethanol conversion strategies for corn (Zea mays L.) grain and corn stover involve multiple trips across the field and separate bioprocessing of the grain and stover. The objective of this study was to compare bioethanol yield between a traditional source separated corn harvest coupled with conventional separate starch and cellulosic bioprocessing streams, and novel whole-plant harvest strategies coupled with a whole-plant (starch plus cellulosic) bioprocessing platform. Composition analysis showed immature cut whole-plant fractions whether fresh processed (ImF) or ensiled (ImS), and mature cut whole-plant fraction (MWP) had higher glucan (56.0 ± 8.0% kg kg−1 dry biomass), lower xylan (13.3 ± 2.7%), arabinan (2.9 ± 0.6%) and acid-insoluble lignin (11.8 ± 2.6%) contents than mature cut source separated fractions of stover (MSep-S) and cob (MSep-C). Averaged across locations MWP corn had significantly higher bioethanol yield on a land area basis (6446 ± 974 L ha−1) than the other harvest strategies. There was no difference in ethanol yield on a land area basis between ImF (5679 ± 1046 L ha−1) or ImS (5294 ± 1052 L ha−1) indicating that conventional ensiling is a viable feedstock storage method for bioethanol production in future biorefineries. The results suggest that whole-plant corn harvesting coupled with whole-plant bioconversion to ethanol is a viable alternative to the convention of separate grain and stover harvesting and bioprocessing.