Arundo Donax Safe from Noxious Weed Designation in North Carolina

At the North Carolina Board of Agriculture’s meeting on Tuesday, whether or not to classify Arundo donax as a noxious weed in the state was at the top of the agenda. Vernon Cox, Division Director of the Plant Industry Division details the decision:
 

"The ultimate decision is that we are not going to list Arundo Donax as a noxious weed under our noxious weed regulation. However, we did recognize that there does need to be oversight of these activities because of the scale that we are looking at. This is something that can be done responsibly but we need to make sure we have the appropriate management practices in place. We will continue discussions with the industry and the Biofuels center to make sure that those are in place.”

But, as Cox explains, there are some management practices that will be put in place before widespread production can occur:
 

“We are looking at a number of things, the first one starts off in siting, you don’t want to site it in fields that are adjacent to areas where there is a likelihood that it might get into more sensitive areas and potentially cause problems. When you identify fields and you plant, you need to make sure you have appropriate buffers around there to prevent spread and also to allow monitoring around the fields to make sure there are no escapes. You have to make sure that when you are harvesting it that you follow proper practices and clean up the equipment to make sure you don’t spread it into places you don’t want it.”

While clearing the Board of Agriculture is a major hurdle, it’s not the only one. There’s the Environmental Protection Agency. And Shane Reese, Communication Manager of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina says Arundo has yet to receive RIN qualification:

“The EPA recently approved Camelina and energy cane both for RIN qualification, Arundo Donax and elephant grass are both still in a holding pattern at the EPA. A decision on those crops qualifications will be made at a later date. At the same time, the EPA has already recognized giant reed (arundo domax) as a crop that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%. So the last challenge that we have comes from the EPA recognizing giant reed for RIN qualification.”

RIN, or Renewable Identification Number means that when fuel from a biomass with a RIN number is used in a fossil fuel blend, the blender will receive credit for using the biofuel as mandated by the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Delane Richardson, Vice President of Technology with Chemtex Intl. explains that they feel it’s just a matter of time before Arundo receives RIN certification:

“We are hoping that we do get RIN certification in the very near future. The analysis for RIN approval is around green house gas reductions and arundo is around 80-90% improvement, so we meet it.”


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