Iowa State University
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

BioCentury Research Farm


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Location

Boone County

Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm
1327 U Ave.
Boone, IA 50036
(515) 296-6300

Owners

BioCentury Research Farm homepage and current events

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Researchers are studying the conversion of biomass to fuels.

History

The BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF) is the first-in-the-nation integrated research and demonstration farm devoted to biomass production and processing. Since opening in 2009, the BCRF has promoted and supported advanced research in the areas of biomass production, harvest, storage, transport, preparation, processing and analysis.

Soils

Terrain is gently sloping, broken by a rectangular gridwork of roads and fields. Much of the land is drained by tile and ditches because the land has poor natural drainage. Predominant soils are:

Clarion:
2-5 percent slope, very well drained, occurs on upland slopes
Nicollet:
1-3 precent slope, poorly drained, occurs between uplands and low areas
Webster:
0-3 percent slope, poorly drained, occurs on low-lying uplands

Research and Demonstration

The farm is located at and works closely with the ISU Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm. Examples of research and demonstration projects at the BCRF include:

Biomass production. Alternative biomass crop species kenaf, miscanthus, sweet sorghum, switchgrass and triticale are being evaluated for production. The research includes identification of best management practices, understanding the impact these crops may have on biogeochemical cycles, and their potential to reduce global climate change through carbon offset and sequestration. Different biomass cropping systems are being explored, including long- and short-term rotations of biomass crops with corn and soybeans, development of perennial cover crops and management strategies for cornbiomass production systems.

Biomass harvest, storage, and transport. Single pass biomass harvesting technologies that separate and gather corn stover and corn grain are being evaluated. Work on biomass densification continues. A long-term storage project has large stacks of corn stover bales stored in hoop barns, under tarps, in wrappers and unprotected.

Biomass preparation and processing. Grinding and sizing corn stover and woody biomass for testing by National Advanced Biofuels Consortium members is underway. The Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies has several projects jointly funded by the Department of Energy and industry that further test pyrolytic processes and high-temperature gas filtration testing. A startup company is using the fast pyrolysis facility for product research and development. A new thermal gasification system has been constructed and is in use. Fermentations in small-scale vessels are frequent and are highlighted by fungal fermentation of thin stillage from ethanol production and yeast fermentation of soybean aqueous extraction co-products.

Outreach. ore than 140 tours of the farm hosted 1,700 people during the past two years. An ISU Technology Systems Management class team constructed its senior design project at the farm.

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Harvesting corn residue and grain at the same time.

Facilities

The BCRF offers opportunities for medium pilot-scale research in biomass feedstock production, harvest, transport, storage, preparation, biorefinery processing and laboratory testing. BCRF facilities include: biomass production on the land, dry biomass feedstock storage, biomass feedstock preparation, biomass chemical pretreatment, wet and dry fractionation, fast pyrolysis and thermal gasification, fermentation and distillation, cold storage, business incubator and office space.