Projects were funded in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Highlights include:

• Three projects in California that focus on determining the feasibility and sustainability of using poplar, switchgrass and sugarcane as a biomass feedstock.

• Three projects in Michigan that focus on the environmental impact of biomass feedstock production, pest control in perennial grasses used as a biomass feedstock and developing a cost-effective fermentation process to increase the sustainability of biodiesel production.

• Four projects in South Dakota to design an ecologically optimized feedstock production system, develop activation technologies for producing valuable activated carbon from biochar, to research methods to produce high levels of commercially-available polysaccharide gums from prairie cordgrass and an equipment grant to purchase chromatography system for research on advanced biofuels production and development of lignocellulosic biomass.

A full list of awardees can be found online at www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/sus_bioenergy_awards.html.

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 www.nifa.usda.gov.