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Biomass will play big role in future biofuels production

The renewable fuels industry's future is a tough one to peg, but one thing is clear: diversification of feedstocks will be key to the advancement of new technologies on the cusp of implementation.

A panel of industry members involved in moving a step beyond today's biofuels production wrapped up the Successful Farming Biofuels Forum Tuesday, sharing their views of what will be important to advancing toward lawmakers' lofty goals for renewable energy production in coming decades.

While the goal of boosted production and some basic means of reaching that goal are known, how it will all take place together remains unclear, according to Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., senior research scientist Doug Haefele.

"The first thing to admit is that we really don't know what's going to make sense five to 10 years from now," Haefele told biofuels executives at Tuesday's forum.



Haefele discusses the general three-part path that future biofuels industry development will likely follow.
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Once that realization is made, determining just how biofuels production will expand in the future will comprise two paths. First, a focus must remain on continuing the development of grain hybrids to meet the growing needs for raw materials in the process, said Joe Foresman, Pioneer marketing specialist.

"As we look to the future, it's clear that we do have some pretty straightforward targets. Without compromising yields, of course, our goal is to increase starch and decrease fiber," Foresman said of future corn hybrid development for ethanol.

He added the development and production of highly fermentable varieties will not just help growers meet the demand for their local ethanol facility, but also help refiners meet their long-term production goals. In addition, with the livestock industry comprising a large part of the marketplace for distillers' grains, Foresman says future research will also address how hybrids can improve these products. In the end, he says it's all about getting as much "bang for the buck" possible from each corn kernel.



Foresman discusses the increasing importance of connections between corn growers and ethanol refiners in the future.
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Future corn hybrid research and development must take into account the livestock industry, Foresman says.
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The renewable fuels industry's future is a tough one to peg, but one thing is clear: diversification of feedstocks will be key to the advancement of new technologies on the cusp of implementation.

Panel members identified a pair of "key technologies" that will be crucial to meeting the nation's biofuels production goals. First, Haefele said a "huge area" of future biofuels technology will be adapted in the crop production side through both traditional breeding and biotechnology.

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