A government research grant for nearly $1.8 million is the latest measure of progress for an ambitious research and development program run by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB).
"This is a sustained effort to put corn-based isosorbide to work as an ingredient in plasticizers, epoxies, and ultraviolet stabilizers," explains Richard Harves, a corn grower from Dickens in northwest Iowa. He is chair of the ICPB's research committee. "These uses could create a market for 30 to 40 million bushels of corn and add to the diversity of corn markets."
The $1.76 million grant, announced jointly by USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy, is the fourth grant ICPB has received for isosorbide and related research efforts. That represents a total of $5.06 million in grants to support this strategic research, according to Harves. "With this kind of funding, we can take on large-scale projects with big up-side potential to benefit farmers and consumers."
Better plastic products from corn
The new USDA/DOE grant will be used to define the cost performance of isosorbide-based compounds that improve the performance of plastics.
While many commodity checkoffs conduct research, the ICPB has developed a novel approach, includes working with nationally recognized research centers and that has produced a number of patents. The ICPB's strategic goal is two-fold: to discover and commercialize new uses for corn and to find ways to return more of value added by research to Iowa's corn growers.
"We are doing work that no one else is and by winning these grants, we are leveraging the value of every checkoff dollar to get more mileage out of our growers' contributions," says Kyle Phillips, a grower from Knoxville who chairs the ICPB. "We look forward to the day we can license grower-owned technology and see the licensing fees come back to benefit Iowa's corn farmers," he adds.
ICPB is made up of 17 Iowa corn growers elected from Iowa's crop reporting districts by corn farmers. ICPB invests almost $7 million annually to develop and defend markets, fund research and educate people about corn and its uses.