Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
Division of Agriculture, University of Arkansas System
Feb. 12, 2009
CONTACTS: Mark Cochran, Associate Vice President-Research, Division of Agriculture, and
Director, Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, 479-575-8703.
Researchers as identified in UA departments of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, 575-
2351; Chemical Engineering, 575-4951; Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, 575-2347;
Entomology, 575-6628; Plant Pathology, 575-2447; Food Science, 575-4605; Animal Science,
575-3745; Poultry Science, 575-2447; Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, 575-2258;
Agricultural and Extension Education, 575-7123; Arkansas Forest Resources Center, Monticello,
870-460-1052; Public Policy Center, 501-671-2001; Southwest Research and Extension Center,
870-777-9702. Rice Research and Extension Center, 870-673-2661.
By Howell Medders, Communications, Division of Agriculture, University of Arkansas System,
EDITOR. Feel free to condense and contact sources to tailor story to your audience. --hm
Department of Energy Funds Arkansas Bioenergy Projects
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The University of Arkansas System’s Division of
Agriculture is collaborating with counterparts in other states on bioenergy research and
extension programs supported in part by a $1,968,000 grant from the U.S. Department
Mark Cochran, director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, is
coordinating the Mid-South/Southeast BioEnergy Consortium, which includes projects in
Arkansas and Georgia.
―Arkansas is well positioned for bioenergy production with large areas of cropland
and forests and an innovative processing industry for agricultural and forest products,‖
Cochran said. He added that several Arkansas companies are producing biodiesel using
soy oil, other vegetable oils and animal fats as feedstock.
―We are working to support the state’s fledgling biodiesel industry and develop
the information infrastructure that will allow our farmers and entrepreneurs to move
rapidly into the use of cellulosic technology when it comes online,‖ Cochran said.
Governments and industry around the world are funding research to make the
conversion of woody (cellulosic) plant material to biofuel an economically viable
alternative, Cochran said.
Sugars are bound in the cellulose in stems and leaves, which are treated with
acids or enzymes to release sugars, which can then be fermented to make fuel. The
process is currently more expensive than converting corn to ethanol or oilseeds to
biodiesel. However, cellulosic feedstocks are more plentiful and less costly. They include
crop and forest residue and crops such as switchgrass that are not used for food and
can be grown on marginal cropland, Cochran said.
―Our greatest asset is the resourcefulness of our farmers and entrepreneurs,‖
Cochran said. ―If we give them the technology to work with and information to evaluate
the economic feasibility, they will make it happen.‖
Some $600,000 of the U.S. Department of Energy grant funds will help support
25 projects in Arkansas. Projects involve research and extension faculty in the Division
of Agriculture’s Arkansas Forest Resources Center at Monticello, the Rice Research and
Extension Center at Stuttgart, Southwest Research and Extension Center at Hope, the
Public Policy Center at Little Rock and departments based on the Fayetteville campus.
Projects will address four major objectives.
Cellulosic Transition. Seven projects are to help move from biodiesel and
grain-to-ethanol to the next generation of bioenergy technology using cellulosic
feedstocks. Economically feasible production requires solving a number of problems
related to conversion technology and pre-treatment of feedstock.
• Julie Carrier, biological and agricultural engineering, is researching pre-
treatment of sweet gum and poplar biomass as potential cellulosic bioenergy feedstock.
In another project, she is developing pre-treatments for forest products residue
• Matthew Pelkki, Arkansas Forest Resources Center, is studying the logistics
and economics of using sweet gum trees as cellulosic ethanol feedstock.
• Rubin Morawicki, food science, is working on new uses for soybean meal
resulting from increased demand for soy oil, including extraction of fermentation aids for
cellulosic ethanol production.
• Agricultural economist Mike Popp and chemical engineers Robert Babcock, Ed
Clausen and Ralph Martin are focusing on increasing the efficiency of producing
bioenergy products from various fats and oils.
• Food scientist Ya-Jane Wang and chemical engineers Jerry King and Ralph
Martin are developing pre-treatments to enhance efficiency of using agricultural residue
as cellulosic ethanol feedstock.
• Samy Sadaka, Tom Costello and Karl VanDevender, all in biological and
agricultural engineering, are developing portable syngas and bio-oil conversion systems
that could reduce the need to transport and store forest and crop residue feedstock to a
Feedstock Systems. Eight projects are focused on matching specific feedstocks
and bioenergy conversion technologies and developing viable systems for production,
harvest and processing.
• Sadaka, Costello, VanDevender and Pelkki are investigating the use of poultry
manure alone or with forest and crop residues to produce syngas and bio-oil.
• Marty Matlock and Tom Costello, biological and agricultural engineering, are
developing a field-scale ―algal turf scrubber‖ system for extracting oil from algae that is
removed from a water source that contains excessive algae-growing nutrients.
• Jamie Schuler, Pelkki, Hal Liechty and Chris Stuhlinger, forest resources, are
studying the environmental dynamics of producing fast-growing woody crops as
• David Patterson, forest resources, along with Costello, VanDevender and
Sadaka, are investigating systems for forest residue collection and logistics.
• Agricultural economists Popp, Lanier Nalley and Bradley Watkins are creating
economic models to analyze the potential costs and returns of marketing crop residues
or producing energy crops compared to current cropping systems.
• Crop scientists and plant pathologists Nathan Slaton, Robert Bacon, Pengyin
Chen, Terry Kirkpatrick, Larry Purcell, Craig Rothrock, John Rupe and Thad Scott are
evaluating production systems for various oilseed crops as bioenergy feedstock.
• Crop scientists and plant pathologists Chuck West, Nilda Burgos, Dick Oliver,
Burt Bluhm and David Tebeest are evaluating production systems for switchgrass and
sorghum as cellulosic feedstock.
• Crop scientists Kristofor Brye, Dirk Philipp, Vic Ford, Larry Purcell and Chuck
West; biological and agricultural engineer Dharmendra Saraswat; and waste-
management specialist Suzanne Hirrel are addressing the environmental impacts of an
expansion of grass crops such as switchgrass and wheat grown for biofuel feedstock.
Biofuel Education. Five projects will provide educational programs for farm and
industry audiences about biofuel feedstock production, harvesting and processing.
• Tom Riley, Public Policy Center, and Popp are developing educational
programs for use by county extension agents and others to help inform farmers,
landowners and others about opportunities to produce biofuel feedstock and related
• Sadaka will develop educational material on biofuels. He is using portable
biofuel conversion units in educational programs for schools, civic groups and other
• Don Johnson, George Wardlow and Leslie Edgar, agricultural and extension
education, are developing instructional material on engine performance and emission of
engines using biofuels.
• Entomologist Robert Wiedenmann, plant pathologist Rick Cartwright and crop
scientists Andrew Sharpley, Mike Daniels and Robert Bacon are developing educational
materials on the costs, benefits and sustainability of production systems required for
biofuel feedstock crops.
• Tamara Walkingstick, Arkansas Forest Resources Center, is providing training
for county extension agents and others on use of forest biomass for biofuel feedstock.
Co-Products and By-Products. Five projects are designed to develop uses for
co-products and by-products of biofuel production.
• Animal scientists Charles Maxwell, Beth Kegley, Ken Coffey, Paul Beck and
Wayne Kellogg are evaluating biofuel co-products as animal feed.
• Patterson and Pelkki are evaluating uses of co-products of wood-based
cellulosic biofuel production.
• Food scientists Ya-Jane Wang, Navam Hettiarachchy and Andrew Proctor are
examining the feasibility of producing food and pharmaceutical co-products derived from
pre-treatment of biofuel feedstock and from by-products of biofuel production.
• Poultry scientists Park Waldroup and Susan Watkins are evaluating biofuels by-
products as poultry feed ingredients.
• Carrier is developing technology to extract phytochemicals from sweet gum
wood prior to pretreatment for use as biofuel feedstock. The phytochemicals have
potential uses for human and animal health, cosmetics and cleaning products.
News releases and photos are available online at
BIOENERGY LAB -- Samy Sadaka demonstrates biofuel processes used in the Division
of Agriculture’s Bioenergy, Biofuel and Bioproducts Laboratory at the Rice Research and
Extension Center, Stuttgart. He works on processes for making biodiesel; gasification,
which transforms solid biomass into syngas that can be substituted for natural gas; and
pyrolysis to convert biomass into bio-oil, which is similar to fuel oil and can be further
TEST SITES – Division of Agriculture scientists are conducting research with
switchgrass, sweet sorghum and other potential bioenergy field crops in test plots in or
near Gentry, Fayetteville, Hope, Rohwer, Marianna, Colt, Newport and Keiser.