Assessing corn stover composition and sources of variability via NIRS

Research paper by David W. Templeton, Amie D. Sluiter, Tammy K. Hayward, Bonnie R. Hames, Steven R. Thomas

Indexed on: 17 Jun '09Published on: 17 Jun '09Published in: Cellulose


Corn stover, the above-ground, non-grain portion of the crop, is a large, currently available source of biomass that potentially could be collected as a biofuels feedstock. Biomass conversion process economics are directly affected by the overall biochemical conversion yield, which is assumed to be proportional to the carbohydrate content of the feedstock materials used in the process. Variability in the feedstock carbohydrate levels affects the maximum theoretical biofuels yield and may influence the optimum pretreatment or saccharification conditions. The aim of this study is to assess the extent to which commercial hybrid corn stover composition varies and begin to partition the variation among genetic, environmental, or annual influences. A rapid compositional analysis method using near-infrared spectroscopy/partial least squares multivariate modeling (NIR/PLS) was used to evaluate compositional variation among 508 commercial hybrid corn stover samples collected from 47 sites in eight Corn Belt states after the 2001, 2002, and 2003 harvests. The major components of the corn stover, reported as average (standard deviation) % dry weight, whole biomass basis, were glucan 31.9 (2.0), xylan 18.9 (1.3), solubles composite 17.9 (4.1), and lignin (corrected for protein) 13.3 (1.1). We observed wide variability in the major corn stover components. Much of the variation observed in the structural components (on a whole biomass basis) is due to the large variation found in the soluble components. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed that the harvest year had the strongest effect on corn stover compositional variation, followed by location and then variety. The NIR/PLS rapid analysis method used here is well suited to testing large numbers of samples, as tested in this study, and will support feedstock improvement and biofuels process research.