Three leading agricultural companies will join forces to expand research on bioenergy from crop residues. Archer Daniels Midland, Deere and Monsanto will explore technologies and processes to turn corn stover- the stalks, leaves and cobs of corn plants - into feed and bioenergy products.

The companies will collaborate on environmentally and economically sustainable methods for the harvest, storage and transport of corn stover which can be used for feed or as a cellulosic feedstock for biofuel production. By creating feed and energy products from crop byproducts, farmers can be more productive without farming more acres.

Stover is usually left on the field, where, in proper amounts, it helps reduce soil erosion and build up soil organic matter. A 170-bushel-per-acre corn crop, which was the average last year in Iowa, leaves behind about four tons of stover. The USDA forecasts that in 2008, farmers will harvest 12.3 billion bushels of corn, resulting in approximately 290 million tons of stover.

In their work, the companies will address stover collection rates and how much stover is required to remain on the soil to reduce erosion and maintain or improve soil quality for subsequent crops. Also, the amount of moisture in the stover at harvest can present challenges in transportation and storage.

"Using non-food feedstocks for feed and energy is one way that agriculture can apply innovation to create renewable, sustainable solutions," says Todd Werpy, vice president, ADM. “This collaborative effort brings together three agricultural leaders to identify and address the complexities that come with commercializing a new feedstock."

"We are hopeful the collaboration of our companies will lead to innovative technologies to improve collection and provisioning of biomass feedstocks, such as corn stover," said Klaus Hoehn, vice president, John Deere.

"Advanced biotechnologies are protecting plants better than ever, helping the plants to achieve their full grain yield potential," said Robb Fraley, chief technology officer, Monsanto Company." This provides an opportunity to convert an underutilised resource into a new source of value for growers and processors."