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USDA grants support sustainable bioenergy production

Projects would deliver liquid fuels Goal is to develop regional  systems and create jobs Research areas include: crop protection for sustainable feedstock production systems, enhanced value co-product development, and carbon sequestration and sustainable bioenergy production.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced research grants awarded to spur production of bioenergy and bio-based products that will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and help create jobs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Director Roger Beachy made the announcement on behalf of Secretary Vilsack during the 16th 1890 Biennial Research Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia.

"USDA and President Obama are committed to producing clean energy right here at home, to not only break our dependence on foreign oil, but also boost rural economies," said Vilsack. "These projects will give us the scientific information needed to support biofuel production and create co-products that will enhance the overall value of a bio-based economy. This will propel us to out-educate, out-innovate and out-build in the field of renewable energy and help America win the future."

The long-term goal for the research projects, which were selected through a highly competitive process, is to implement sustainable regional systems that materially deliver liquid transportation biofuels to help meet the Energy Independence and Security Act goal of 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2022. The funded projects focus on three areas: crop protection for sustainable feedstock production systems, enhanced value co-product development, and carbon sequestration and sustainable bioenergy production.

Projects were funded in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Highlights include:

  • Three projects in California focus on determining the feasibility and sustainability of using poplar, switchgrass and sugarcane as a biomass feedstock.
  • Three projects in Michigan focus on the environmental impact of biomass feedstock production, pest control in perennial grasses used as a biomass feedstock and developing a cost-effective fermentation process to increase the sustainability of biodiesel production.
  • Four projects in South Dakota would design an ecologically optimized feedstock production system, develop activation technologies for producing valuable activated carbon from biochar, to research methods to produce high levels of commercially-available polysaccharide gums from prairie cordgrass and an equipment grant to purchase chromatography system for research on advanced biofuels production and development of lignocellulosic biomass.

A full list of awardees can be found online at

The grants are awarded through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI's sustainable bioenergy challenge area targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and bio-based products that contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems.

AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.

Each award was made through a competitive selection process. An external peer review panel reviewed all proposals and made award decisions based on scientific merit to the best and brightest scientists across the nation.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues affecting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at

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