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Latest LIBERTY agronomic data shows viability of biomass harvesting

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Source: POET, LLC

Fifth year of site data from Iowa State University, USDA researchers confirms that crop residue harvesting is consistent with good farm management

EMMETSBURG, IOWA -- Harvesting crop residue for cellulosic ethanol production is consistent with good farm management, according to the latest data from researchers with Iowa State University and USDA.

The work was commissioned by POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels to ensure the sustainability of the joint venture’s plans to build cellulosic ethanol plants and license technology to producers in the U.S. and abroad. The research, by Dr. Doug Karlen with USDA and Dr. Stuart Birrell with ISU, was conducted in fields near Emmetsburg, Iowa, the site of Project LIBERTY, POET-DSM’s 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant currently under construction. The facility will use corn-crop residue – cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk – to produce renewable fuel. It is slated to come online in early 2014.

The research, now in its fifth year, evaluated the possible effects of biomass removal on soil nutrient levels and grain yields over various rates of removal. POET-DSM’s proposed rate of removal is approximately 1 ton per acre, which is 20-25 percent of the above-ground biomass.

“In summary, both grain yields and soil nutrient levels were not significantly affected by stover harvest treatments,” Birrell said in a research summary.

Fields with yields above 175 bushels per acre could remove up to 2 tons of biomass per acre, according to Birrell and Karlen. Based on the data, POET-DSM recommends no changes in nitrogen or phosphorous applications, due to residue removal. Some biomass providers could benefit from adding a small amount of potassium.

Farmers around Emmetsburg have had positive experiences in this new ag market.

“As yields increase, I’m seeing more and more biomass on my field,” said Bruce Nelson, an area farmer who harvests biomass on both his own farm and others’ fields. “Removing some of that material has actually improved how my farm operates. It’s a great opportunity for farmers.”

“This latest data is consistent with what we’ve seen in previous years, and we’re glad that biomass harvesting continues to be an attractive opportunity for farmers,” said Adam Wirt, Biomass Logistics Director for POET Biomass, which handles biomass program management for Project LIBERTY. “Opportunities for today’s farmers are evolving right before our eyes. It’s exciting to be part of it.”

Project LIBERTY is projected to provide about $20 million in income to Emmetsburg-area farmers annually for the corn-crop biomass that will be used in cellulosic ethanol production.

Construction progress at Project LIBERTY continues to move forward on schedule. POET-DSM has initiated discussions with U.S. ethanol producers regarding licensing the joint venture’s cellulosic ethanol production technology.

For more information, the research summary and photos of construction progress, visit www.poetdsm.com.

About POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC

POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, is a 50/50 joint venture between Royal DSM and POET, LLC. Based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the company is a cooperative effort of two innovators that provides a key to unlocking the opportunity of converting corn crop residue into cellulosic bio-ethanol. Built on the strengths of both companies, the joint venture has a critical mission: to make cellulosic bio-ethanol competitive with corn bio-ethanol, the most competitive renewable liquid transportation fuel on the US market today. Drawing on the deep expertise and experience of POET and DSM in different areas of converting cellulosic biomass into bio-ethanol, POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels will have its first commercial-scale plant co-located with POET Biorefining – Emmetsburg in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Based on this plant, the JV plans to globally license an integrated technology package for the conversion of corn-crop residue to cellulosic bio-ethanol. More information, visit www.poetdsm.com

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