Volume 17 • Issue 4 • July 2007
O FFICIAL PUBLICATION OF CROP QU E S T A G R O N O M I C S E R V I C E S , I N C .
New Biomass Technology...
Making Ethanol Without Corn Offers Producers New, Exciting Opportunitie Opportunitiess With bushel prices a dollar higher than a year ago, corn has been stealing all the headlines as the primary feedstock for ethanol production. The push to double current ethanol production to 15 billion gallons by 2012 and increase it further to 35 billion by 2017 – the goal set by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address – spurred a land rush this past spring to designate 90 million acres for raising corn; 13% more than last year and the highest amount of acreage for that crop since the 1940s. But other crops and materials not known for their glitter could be golden as well. Categorized under the lofty scientic term biomass, bers or cellulose from such ordinary plants as switchgrass, wheat straw, corn stover, stover, milo residue, chipped hardwoods and corncobs will be the fodder ethanol producers turn into clean-burning, renewable liquid fuel. “Think about all the different things you can harvest in a crop residue situation,” says Thomas Robb, Ph.D., Manager of Co-Product Development for Abengoa BioEnergy New Technologies, Technologies, a Missouri bioenergy research and development company opening a biomass conversion plant in Southwest Kansas in 2010. “We’re going to develop the technology to make most of these residues work.” Construction of the facility is funded in part by a major grant from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) with matching funds from Abengoa. Until recently, recently, producing ethanol from biomass feedstock, instead of corn and other grains, was costly and impractical. In the last few years, however, however, scientists have made breakthroughs in biotechnology and introduced innovative processes to manufacturing operations. Scientists and engineers at Abengoa, for exam-
ple, have advanced the vital pre-treatment pre-treatment step in the cellulose ethanol production process so that the molecular structures of the cellulose in biomass materials are expanded, allowing enzymes to convert cellulose efciently into glucose. “When you get to glucose, you can make ethanol,” Dr. Dr. Robb says.
New Commodity Market Although the new biomass operation is being designed initially to convert 700 tons of biomass a day into ethanol, Abengoa has its sights set on increasing capacity and eventually assessing the value of products other than ethanol from the process. Once you have glucose, or as the DOE refers to it, a “sugar platform,” other products can be produced from it such as new polymers to supply the plastics industry. Researchers Researchers at the company say the polymers derived from cellulose could be economically bene cial and would allow it to create an array of products much like a traditional oil renery does. For farmers, the payoff will come quicker. quicker. Abengoa gures it only needs about 4% to 7% of the available biomass in a 50-mile radius of the new Southwest Kansas biomass plant to satisfy the new plant’s 700 tons per day appetite, from which 80 gallons of ethanol per ton of biomass material will be produced. “A signicant amount of the biomass we would be collecting is material that is going to go away, no matter what,” says Dr. Robb, who estimates farmers often will burn off the residue, residue, let it sit or incorporate incorporate it back into the soil. There certainly is an amount of crop residue that needs to stay on the land to maintain long-term soil health and productivity; however, there is also an amount that can be collected without any detrimental impact on the soil. “Now,” “Now,” he emphasizes, “they can sell some of it to Continued on Page 2
Dr. Thomas Robb C r op Q u es t P e rs p ec t iv e s
New Biomass Technology... Continued from Page 1 the plant and make a nice additional income off their land.” Farmers, in effect, can establish a new commodity market. “At the moment, selling material,” Dr. Robb explains, “has been on a spotty basis – if you had a bad hay year, you could sell corn stalks. If you didn’t have a bad hay year, then your corn stalks didn’t have a market. Being able to sell this type of material every year – regardless of the market condition – will allow more grain producers to budget much more efciently.” Dr. Robb is enthusiastic about the opportunities for the agricultural community in the Southwest Kansas region. When the demonstration plant is up and running, farmers will be able to increase their income-generating potential on a regular basis. The biomass windfall for farmers won’t be a temporary phenomenon, Dr. Robb points out. “From year to year, they can count on it.”
do for farm incomes in the area. “People there are feeding their families on $25 an acre,” Dr. Robb estimates. “So if the residue is sold at $8 or $9 dollars an acre, farmers are getting a signicant return from a small percentage of materials that they just might have considered refuse anyway.” Dr. Robb goes on to say farmers should establish a price for their biomass material based on a net prot increase per ton per acre, and he uses bottom line gures of $6 to $7 dol lars. “That may or may not be what we wind up paying the farmer,” Dr. Robb claries. “We may be paying more because I have taken nutrients from his soil and he has to put them back; and then there is the expense of harvesting and getting the material to the production facility. Careful budgeting with the assistance of your crop consultant will be critical to make sure this works for everyone involved.”
How Much More?
Plant ber is the most abundant organic molecule on earth. The cellulose ethanol process – enzymatic hydrolysis in the case of Abengoa – turns biomass into fermentable sugars that are converted to ethanol. Plant materials that rely on the energy of the sun to grow and absorb carbon dioxide – instead of emitting it – offer environmental advantages unequalled by other feedstock and further serve to enhance economic and environmental well-being of the country as well as the world. “While we’re in business to make money,” concludes Dr. Robb, “our mission is to promote the growth of a sustainable business.”
As would be expected of a multinational company involved in sophisticated technology and science, Abengoa did its homework. In determining the Southwest Kansas site for its biomass conversion operation, it set a criterion that the plant (as well as future operations) would be located in a spot where all the biomass materials needed to meet production goals could be gathered and transported to the plant within a 50-mile radius. Abengoa also included farmers in the business model equation, calculating what the new biomass market would
Crop Quest Expands Kansas Regions With Two New Agronomists As Crop Quest goes about the business of providing farmers with the most advanced agriculture technology, tools and strategies to maximize the output from their elds, the agricultural consulting company also has to keep an eye out for its own growth, ensuring it has the manpower and expertise to help its clients. An active intern program with the agricultural sciences departments of several universities and an ongoing recruiting effort within the industry allows Crop Quest to tap into the talents of the best and the brightest people who have decided to make a career of serving the agriculture community. This spring, Crop Quest added two more agronomists to its roster of specialists. Although Lance Richardson just started his full-time position as an agronomist in May, he is not exactly new to Crop Quest. The recent graduate from Kansas State spent two years interning with the company as he worked on his degree in agronomy, focusing on crops, soils, weeds, crop breeding, climatology and the protection of soil and water resources. Growing up, Richardson spent six years toiling in the hay and corn elds of Ingalls, Kan. Currently, Richardon is helping clients in Crop Quest’s Garden City, Kan. DiviLance Richardson sion that encompasses Scott, Kearny and Finney Counties with w eed control and irrigation scheduling. “Fortunately, there’s been no shortage of water this season,” he 2
Crop Quest Perspectives
says. So, he is “scouting for insects and weeds” and coming up with pesticide and herbicide application programs. Richardson is particularly interested in “dealing with the sitespecic agriculture” technology that Crop Quest is advancing with its Precision Ag Services. After what Luke Harrington experienced in early May, there’s probably not much that can phase him. Harrington recently joined Crop Quest’s Greensburg, Kan. Division and was hunkered down in a basement in Greensburg when the tornado of May 4 touched down, destroying the entire city. “It was like someone dropped a bomb,” he says. Harrington graduated from Fort Hays State with a degree in agriculture business in 2003. He already had a wealth of ag knowledge before earning his diploma, Luke Harrington having grown up on a 4,000 -acre farm in Garden City, Kan., helping his father raise corn, wheat, milo and beans. For a couple of years after graduation, he worked on several other farms. Harrington grew up around a farm and row crops, he explains, and he just likes being there, learning something new everyday from each farmer and building relationships with them. “And I like being outside,” says Harrington about his favorite job perk.
E S C N N E I R R E E P T X E N I E L
B A U L A V N I N I A G
R E M M U S
Crop Quest, Inc. is proud to have 23 summer interns hired for 2007. Interns have been hired from K-State, Ft. Hays State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Tarleton Universities, and various Kansas community colleges in addition to three part-time high school student interns. Our goal is to provide the best educational experience possible for each intern while promoting crop consulting as a career. Interns work side by side with an experienced agronomist learning about crop scouting, seed varieties, irrigation, tillage practices, chemical/herbicide options and detailed reports. Interns comprise about 20% of our Crop Quest staff. They are vital to the success of our summer scouting practices, but even more important is the potential for future full-time employees. We tend to hire about 50% of our interns into full-time positions, and it’s a tremendous asset if the candidates already have experience while understanding and enjoying the job requirements. Nationwide universities are reporting fewer students enrolling in agriculture majors. In addition, statistics show that 77 million baby boomers are about to retire
within the next ve years and there is only 44 million of the next generation to ll these positions. Therefore, Crop Quest’s goal is to recruit and hire the best candidates possible to help you with your farming operations. Internships provide us an opportunity to train and hopefully retain that type of quality employee. If you have an opportunity to meet one of these dynamic young people, take a moment to say hello and encourage them in their pursuit of an agricultural degree and career.
The 2007 summer interns: Montezuma, KS Division: Hannah Bartel, Sarah Bartel, Ester Bartel, Justin Street Ulysses, KS Division: Dustin Hodgins, Brady Jones, Nicholas Martin, Shane Rohde Garden City, KS Division: Jeremiah Jones, Emmett Muennink, Trevor Witt Dumas, TX Division: Matt Braun, Justin Neusch, Chris Patterson Mount Hope, KS Division: Kevin Hecht, Clint Patry, Nathan Simmons Pratt, KS Division: Klayton Keesling Dodge City, KS Division: Brian Mapel, Ethan McInteer, Quincy Waldren Greensburg, KS Division: Garrett Lohmann Silver Lakes, KS Division: Damian Helms
Summer interns studying in their weed ID class.
Mission Statement Crop Quest is an employee-owned company dedicated to providing the highest quality agricultural services for each customer. The quest of our network of professionals is to practice integrity and innovation to ensure our services are economically and environmentally sound.
Crop Quest Agronomic Services, Inc. Main Ofce: Phone 620.225.2233 Fax 620.225.3199 Internet: www.cropquest.com cqof[email protected]
Crop Quest Board of Directors President: Director: Director: Director: Director: Director:
Ron O’Hanlon Jim Gleason Dwight Koops Cort Minor Chris McInteer Rob Benyshek
“Employee-Owned & Customer Driven”
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