URBANA, Ill - On a crisp fall day, students, faculty and staff learned about ongoing research projects at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) Energy Farm as they walked among towering plots of prairie grasses and woody plants.
The farm tour was part of the Fourth Annual Sustainability Week, a weeklong celebration of the ongoing efforts by the University of Illinois to create a more sustainable campus and community.
Farm tours are a “fantastic way” for students to learn about the diversified research at Illinois, said Jenny Kokini, who helps run the Center for a Sustainable Environment which hosted the event.
“The students who toured the Sustainable Student Farm and EBI Energy Farm get to see firsthand what it takes to conduct bioenergy research that will help improve how we produce food and fuel sustainably,” she said. “Illinois faculty and staff are out here working and collecting vital data on rainy spring days, scorching summer days, and even cool, windy fall days like this one.”
Native bioenergy grasses could provide sustainable fuel while benefiting Illinois conservation by creating a habitat for animals and preventing soil erosion, said DoKyoung (D.K.) Lee, an assistant professor of crop sciences and EBI faculty member, who began the tour.
“We have a lot of different landscapes in Illinois, including hilly, flat, and wet areas,” Lee said. “Not all ground is perfect for row crop production. We would like to use this marginal land to produce biomass.”
Lee said native grasses like prairie cordgrass are good for cold, wet and salty areas whereas big bluestem is good for dry, hilly areas.
Next participants saw black locust trees, the most productive woody plant out of 21 species in a study by Gary Kling, an associate professor of crop sciences and EBI faculty member. Kling discussed how woody plants could be an alternative feedstock that can live for decades, provide a habitat for many animals, and be stored for long periods of time after harvest.
Tom Voigt, an associate professor of crop sciences and EBI faculty member, showed participants a plot of miscanthus, the highest-yielding grass for temperate areas like Illinois. This perennial bioenergy grass doesn’t use traditional fertilizers and produces eight to nine tons of dry matter per acre, whereas fertilized corn only produces about one to two tons of dry matter per acre and is often needed to replenish the organic matter in the soil.
EBI postdoctoral associates Ilsa Kantola and Candice Smith discussed how long-term bioenergy grass-crop and traditional row-crop production will impact Illinois soil, particularly carbon and nitrogen storage. Smith has found that perennial bioenergy plants leach very little nitrogen, which is important to preventing nitrogen from traveling to the Gulf of Mexico and creating large, hypoxic “dead zones” that are virtually void of life.
“The perennial crops are really great for holding onto their nitrogen and not allowing it to leach out,” Smith said. “They also do really well in not omitting nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”
Participants also toured a 20-foot research greenhouse and the university’s 2007 Solar Decathlon “Element House,” which will be renovated and placed at a permanent site on the farm.
The Center for a Sustainable Environment provides national and international leadership on sustainability by providing support for interdisciplinary education, research, and engagement in addition to developing and implementing strategies for a sustainable campus environment.
The Energy Biosciences Institute, supported by a $500 million, 10-year award from energy company BP, pursues solutions to the global energy challenge through collaborative research between the University of California, Berkeley; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The EBI’s efforts at Illinois take place at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), an interdisciplinary research institute.
The Institute for Genomic Biology provided this article.
Fall 2013 Newsletter Available
The 2013 FSHN Newsletter is now available here.
Study to aid formulation of diets containing fermented soybean meal for weanling pigs
URBANA, Ill. – To aid in the formulation of diets containing fermented soybean meal, researchers at the University of Illinois have determined the digestibility of energy and amino acids in this ingredient.
Hans H. Stein, a U of I professor of animal sciences, explained that soybean meal contains anti-nutritional factors, such as oligosaccharides and antigens that restrict its use in diets fed to weanling pigs. Fermentation of soybean meal eliminates some of these anti-nutritional factors, making fermented soybean meal a potential lower-cost substitute for animal protein in starter diets.
Soybean meal fermented in the presence of Aspergillus oryzae and Lactobacillus subtilis has recently become available to the United States market, which prompted the study Stein explained.
"Fermented soybean meal contains fewer anti-nutritional factors and is well tolerated by weanling pigs. But there is a lack of data on the digestibility of energy and amino acids. So our goal was to determine those values,” he said.
Stein's lab conducted two experiments. In the first, they determined the concentration of digestible, metabolizable, and net energy in fermented soybean meal. In the second, they determined the standardized ileal digestibility of crude protein and amino acids. Both studies included conventional soybean meal and fish meal for comparison.
On a dry matter basis, fermented soybean meal contained 4,296 kcal/kg digestible energy (DE), 3,781 kcal/kg metabolizable energy (ME), and 2,710 kcal/kg net energy (NE). Stein said these values compared favorably to those in fish meal which contained 3,827 kcal/kg DE, 3,412 kcal/kg ME, and 2,450 kcal/kg NE. DE, ME, and NE were decreased in fermented soybean meal compared with conventional soybean meal, which contained DE, ME, and NE of 4,553 kcal/kg, 4,137 kcal/kg, and 2,972 kcal/kg respectively.
"Fermentation of soybean meal removes sugars and oligosaccharides. Sucrose is easily digested by pigs, and oligosaccharides are almost completely fermented. When these are removed, the remaining meal contains a greater percentage of fiber, which reduces the digestibility of energy in the diets,” Stein explained.
Digestibility of crude protein and amino acids in fermented soybean meal was the same as or greater than that of soybean meal. Digestibility values for most amino acids were greater in fermented soybean meal than in fish meal.
Stein said the results indicated that fermented soybean meal could replace fish meal in starter diets without negatively affecting the energy content or digestible amino acid content of the diets. "With this new product on the market in the United States, producers have another option for providing protein in weanling pig diets,” he said.
The study, "Concentration of digestible, metabolizable, and net energy and digestibility of energy and nutrients in fermented soybean meal, conventional soybean meal, and fish meal fed to weanling pigs," was recently published in the Journal of Animal Science and was co-authored with Oscar Rojas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at U of I. It is available online at http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/91/9/4397.full.