LANSING, MICHIGAN - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited Michigan State University today to highlight three new research grants awarded to the university to spur production of bioenergy and biobased products that will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and help create jobs. Merrigan joined energy stakeholders and university officials for the announcement and for a tour the Cellulosic Ethanol Pretreatment research lab and AFEX technology pilot plant.

"We can produce clean energy right here at home while boosting rural economies, and Michigan is leading the way with this critical research" said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan. "These research projects will give us the scientific information needed to support biofuel production and propel us to out-educate, out-innovate and out-build in the field of renewable energy to help America win the future."

The long-term goal for the research projects, which were selected through a highly competitive process, is to implement sustainable regional systems that materially deliver liquid transportation biofuels to help meet the Energy Independence and Security Act goal of 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2022. The funded projects focus on three areas: crop protection for sustainable feedstock production systems, enhanced value co-product development, and carbon sequestration and sustainable bioenergy production.

The three projects in Michigan include:

• Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $998,630 - This project will quantify the impacts of woody biomass feedstock production systems on carbon sequestration in soils and biomass and soil emissions of greenhouse gases to determine the net environmental benefits and long-term sustainability of biomass energy production in the northern Great Lakes Region.

• Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $991,219 - This project will examine three groups of highly mobile, grass-associated pests: cereal aphids, aphid-vectored viruses, and white grub larvae. These studies will help identify the most suitable bioenergy crops for use in Midwestern agricultural landscapes to support sustainable agriculture and energy production.

• Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $957,582 - Our overall goal in the project is to develop a cost-effective glycerol-based succinate fermentation process to help increase the sustainability of biodiesel production.

A full list of awardees can be found online at

The grants are awarded through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI's sustainable bioenergy challenge area targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that: contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems.

AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.

Each award was made through a competitive selection process. An external peer review panel reviewed all proposals and made award decisions based on scientific merit to the best and brightest scientists across the nation.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at