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Study finds 'Freedom' a viable feedstock

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University

STARKVILLE — Collaboration between a Mississippi State University (MSU) research agronomist and Georgia’s self-proclaimed “sodfather” may offer a viable grassy feedstock to capitalize on sustainable bioenergy production.

A field of “Freedom” giant miscanthus on MSU’s South Farm towers over research agronomist Brian Baldwin. Baldwin’s 12-year study of grassy feedstocks indicates the plant is a viable resource for biofuel production.

One focus of MSU’s research is giant miscanthus, or Miscanthus x giganteus, a warm-season Asian grass that many scientists believe has potential as a biomass crop for fuel. Researchers with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station have been studying grassy biomass feedstocks for 12 years.

Baldwin’s investigation culminated in the Freedom cultivar, which is uniquely suited to the South. Production of foundation stock for this grass has been licensed to turfgrass magnate Phillip Jennings of Soperton, Ga., who has incorporated his ideas about alternative energy into a new business venture, SunBelt Biofuels.

Jennings, who will have an exclusive license for the giant miscanthus genotype Freedom, said he intends to make the foundation stock commercially available in the spring of 2010. He said he hopes to have several hundred acres of the stock in production at his turfgrass farm.

“Many researchers around the world have proven giant miscanthus works well in capturing energy from the sun for biofuel,” Jennings said. “Dr. Baldwin’s investigation identified Freedom as a superior variety compared with other miscanthus genotypes and other grassy biomass materials.”

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