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Physical and Chemical Characteristics of High-Tonnage Sorghum for an Extended Biomass Harvesting Season and Storage
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Increasing differences in United States energy consumption and production has influenced the passing of legislation for biomass fuel production. To determine feasibility of energy crops for alternative fuels, research is needed to investigate dry matter yield over an extended harvest season; physical characteristics need to be described for potential harvesting problems; chemical characteristics described to identify selective harvest potential, optimal harvest timing, losses during harvest and storage; various harvest techniques investigated to identify potential cost savings; and impact of various storage techniques on quantity and quality of deliverable biomass. This study investigated the use of two sorghum varieties as a potential bioenergy feedstock where 20 ha were planted for three years. Standing crop samples were collected from August through January to document changes in dry matter yield, moisture, height, fiber content, proximate and ultimate analysis. The sorghum was cut and conditioned – as a two-cutting ratoon or single-cutting – using various mower-conditioners and windrow samples taken daily to determine best method of field drying, quantify dry matter loss and soil entrainment. Two storage methods were utilized – baling with wrapping in a tubeline, and chopping and compressing in bag using a modified cotton module builder – to determine best method of storage for reduced dry matter loss. The optimal time of harvest for maximum dry matter occurred with the November once-cut where 30 Mg ha^-1 was documented, but comparable yields were observed with the two-cutting scenario. Fiber content increased with maturity, peaked, and declined, while ash content and moisture decreased with maturity. The achievement of 55% moisture in January shows field curing to be necessary for transportation at any significant distance, but soil entrainment – as measured by ash concentration – was not found to be a significant problem after conditioning, multiple windrow inversions, and harvesting. The geometric mean length of particle was determined to be 1.4 to 3.7 times lower than nominal chop length, indicating potential cost savings in comminution. Dry matter loss estimates during storage proved difficult due to mobility of moisture throughout the packages, where losses were documented up to 40%. Module packages tended to have lower dry matter and constituent losses than bales.
Dry Matter Loss
Hartley, Brandon (2013). Physical and Chemical Characteristics of High-Tonnage Sorghum for an Extended Biomass Harvesting Season and Storage. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from