Maize (Zea mays L.) stover and cobs are potential feedstock sources for cellulosic ethanol production. Nitrogen (N) fertilization is an important management decision that influences cellulosic biomass and grain production, but its effect on cell wall composition and subsequent cellulosic ethanol production is not known. The objectives of this study were to quantify the responses of maize stover (leaves, stalks, husks, and tassel) and cob cell wall composition and theoretical ethanol yield potential to N fertilization across a range of sites. Field experiments were conducted at rainfed and irrigated sites in Minnesota, USA, over a 2-year period. Stover cell wall polysaccharides, pentose sugar concentration, and theoretical ethanol yield decreased as N fertilization increased. Stover Klason lignin increased with N fertilization at all sites. Cob cell wall composition was less sensitive to N fertilization, as only pentose and Klason lignin decreased with N fertilization at two and one site(s), respectively, and hexose increased with N fertilization at one of eight sites. Cob theoretical ethanol yield was not affected by N fertilization at any site. These results indicate variation in stover cellulosic ethanol production is possible as a result of N management. This study also demonstrated that cell wall composition and subsequent theoretical ethanol yield of maize cobs are generally more stable than those with stover because of overall less sensitivity to N management.
- Cell wall composition
- Cellulosic ethanol