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ISU to Build 'Biofuel Farm' in Boone County

To be called the New Century Farm, it's being created to research the growing and processing of biomass and bioenergy crops.

Iowa State University is creating the first integrated and sustainable biofuel and bioproducts feedstock production system of its kind on a research farm in Boone County in central Iowa. ISU officials made the announcement last week.

The "ISU New Century Farm," is to be constructed west of the ISU Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm, and will include harvest, storage, transportation, handling and bioprocessing facilities. Biomass crops destined for use as bioenergy and bioproducts will be grown on the New Century Farm and other area Iowa State University research farms.

"The farm will serve as a living laboratory for developing and testing sustainable biomass systems by integrating agronomic, environmental and socio-economic research," says Joe Colletti, senior associate dean in ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "It will be directly linked to molecular and traditional plant sciences as well as to advanced processing research."

Will do research on various cellulose crops

He notes that it is widely recognized that corn grain alone won't support the renewable fuels economy and that a variety of annual and perennial cellulosic crops are needed to complement corn and soybean production.

"The processing facility will be capable of processing five tons of biomass per day into bio oil or synthetic gas by using thermochemical technologies plus 500 pounds of grain or biomass into ethanol and industrial chemicals by fermentation," says Larry Johnson, director of the Center for Crops Utilization Research at ISU.

Many operations in the test facility will be about 1/1000 of commercial scale. "This facility will allow ISU researchers and industry partners to test and demonstrate technologies before going commercial," says Johnson.

Basic and applied research will be conducted to achieve short-term and long-term advances in biorenewable fuels and biobased products. The New Century Farm also will provide a needed venue for education and training.

Vision for The New Century Farm

The New Century Farm's vision will include:
* Research that brings together scientific expertise to address biomass cropping systems, biofuel and bioproduct processing, logistics of biomass supply and positive environmental effects such as recycling nutrients back to the land.
* Teaching that serves as a laboratory and resource for training future scientists, producers and extension experts.
* Extension that demonstrates economic, social and environmental viability of biorenewable energy and bioproducts production to producers, policymakers and the public.
* Outreach with companies that will work with Iowa State in collaborative research and development.

Construction is scheduled to begin this fall with a completion date for the main facility in the fall of 2008. The bioprocessing facility will be completed first, followed by offices and laboratories and field research infrastructure.

The initial infrastructure costs are estimated at $19 million with funds coming from state, federal and private sources. Annual operating costs will be covered by research projects.

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