Maize Stover and Cob Cell Wall Composition and Ethanol Potential as Affected by Nitrogen Fertilization

Aaron J. Sindelar, Craig C. Sheaffer, John A. Lamb, Hans Joachim G Jung, Carl J. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1352-1361
Number of pages10
JournalBioenergy Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 8 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by the Minnesota Corn Growers Research and Promotion Council. The authors thank Joshua Larson, Andrew Scobbie, Thor Sellie, and Tom Graff for their contributions to the study. The use of trade, company, or commercial product names in this publication is solely for informational purposes and does not imply recommendation, endorsement, or approval by the United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA is an equal opportunity employer and provider.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA).


  • Cell wall composition
  • Cellulosic ethanol
  • Maize
  • Nitrogen
  • Stover


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