Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the tall reed, Arundo Donax, as a biofuel crop. Steven Burke, President and CEO of Biofuels Center of North Carolina:
“Arundo donax has been seen as among the most promising of energy crops. It yields high volume on fewer acres and is very amenable to technological conversions. It offers a new promise of ethanol production as well as new outcomes for farmers and land owners.”
The approval of Arundo by the EPA, explains Burke, opens up possibilities for both farmers and the cellulosic biofuel industry:
“The decision of the EPA to make Arundo eligible under federal guidelines as a renewable energy crop is validation of its promise and verification that it is environmentally acceptable. To grow it under managed conditions is the requirement. Being attentive to planting and to outcomes, using best management practices; with all of those in place, NC and other states will likely see large amounts of this crop planted,.”
Chemtex, an Italy-based biofuel maker, plans to construct a plant in Sampson County with its main fuel stock being Arundo, preferably planted in hog waste spray fields.
These spray fields are mandated by law to have plant material on them that utilizes large quantities of nitrogen to prevent it from leaching into water supplies. Burke explains that at this time, the tests of nitrogen usage by Arundo are incomplete:
“The Biofuels center, working with NC State, and with Chemtex is doing trial growing and studies to evaluate the intake of nitrogen of these crops. We are about a year and a half away from an analysis.”
One of the drawbacks to Arundo is that it can easily get out of control becoming a noxious weed, especially around water.