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DOE Regional Feedstock Partnership

About the partnership

The Regional Feedstock Partnership was formed in 2008 by the United States Department of Energy and the Sun Grant Initiative to address issues associated with the development of a sustainable and projectable supply of cellulosic feedstocks. Regional field trials (see U.S. map below) were established with multiple key herbaceous feedstocks (energycane, Miscanthus x giganteus, mixed grasses on Conservation Reserve Program land, sorghum and switchgrass), woody feedstocks (poplar and willow) and corn residues.

A summary report of Partnership activities and impacts was recently completed. This report along with accompanying appendices can be downloaded: Regional Feedstock Partnership Summary Report: Enabling the Billion-Ton Vision.

Yield data from these trials have also been used to develop national projected yield maps using PRSIM EM, an environmental model developed at Oregon State University and in the recently released U.S. DOE 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy, Volume I.

Regional Feedstock Partnership Field Trial Locations

Regional Feedstock Partnership Field Trials
 Location of Partnership field trials for diverse biomass feedstocks across the five Sun Grant regions.

 

Partnership objectives

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Sun Grant Initiative initiated the Regional Feedstock Partnership (referred to as the Partnership) in 2007 primarily to address information gaps associated with the realization of the sustainable and reliable production of a billion-tons of biomass to support the U.S. bioenergy industry by the year 2030. Publication of The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply (commonly referred to as the Billion-Ton Study) (Perlack et al., 2005) in 2005, with its associated yield assumptions, led to conclusion that these yield goals and assumptions required validation. Specific objectives of the Partnership were:

  • Establishment of replicated field trials across regions to determine the impact of crop residue removal (primarily corn and small grains) on future grain yields and soil health.
  • Establishment of replicated field trials of some of the most promising feedstock crops (herbaceous annuals and perennials as well as woody species) to demonstrate the potential performance of these feedstocks across the U.S.
  • Assessment of feedstock resources to be used to estimate national supply potential. 
Yield potential maps
"US Map"
Biomass yield potential of upland (top) and lowland (below) switchgrass for the U.S.

 

 

"Bar Chart"
Figure 10. Funding for various research and outreach efforts in the Regional Feedstock Partnership.

Partnership field trials were established for key biomass feedstocks (i.e., corn stover, biomass sorghum, energycane, miscanthus, switchgrass, CRP mixed perennial grasses, willow and poplar) across multiple years and in diverse environments across the United States (Figures 8 and 9). Teams for each feedstock included experts from Sun Grant and other land-grant institutions, USDA-ARS, national labs and industry. Teams were also organized to develop national yield potential maps and to create bioenergy related content for dedicated outreach efforts. Biomass from the field trials was harvested for up to seven years, much longer than typically seen in the literature. Investment by DOE, Idaho National Laboratories and other partners exceeded $27 million for use in executing the feedstock research for each species, conducting outreach efforts (BioWeb) and developing yield potential maps for each species (Figure 10). Yield data from the RFP were used to inform DOE’s 2016 Billion-Ton Report [Study] and to develop national yield potential maps for each feedstock.

 

Impacts
  • Validated many of the assumptions relating to yield potential and crop sustainability in the 2005 Billion-Ton Study and in the U.S. Billion-Ton Update (DOE 2011). Validation of these assumptions supports the conclusion that yield expectations that underpin the Billion-Ton Study projections are achievable.

  • Provided information for the 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy.

  • Developed a comprehensive set of national and regional yield potential estimates for all species evaluated in the Partnership.

  • Quantified specific levels of corn stover that could be sustainably harvested (Figure 12) for use in commercial lignocellulosic biorefineries.

  • Provided the opportunity to assemble and conserve a poplar germplasm collection that contains more than 20,000 clones. New clones resulting from crosses made using this germplasm collection have resulted in significantly improved cultivars.

  • Released publicly available yield trial data sets for use by biorefineries, feedstock producers, policy makers, financial institutions and others (e.g., Lee et al., 2018).

  • Demonstrated multiyear yield of biomass sorghum, switchgrass, miscanthus, energy cane, CRP mixed perennial grasses, popular and willow in diverse environments in the U.S.

  • Supported training of 15 M.S. students, eight Ph.D. students, 25 undergraduate students and seven postdocs.

Outputs
  • "Corn Strover"
    Corn stover harvest. Photo courtesy of Doug Karlen, USDA ARS.
    Nearly 140 peer-reviewed publications;
  • Six book chapters;  
  • More than 200 presentations to scientific, professional and lay audiences;
  • More than 50 extension/outreach publications;
  • and websites to educate stakeholders about bioenergy.