Minnesota growers involved in corn-to-plastic research

Jonathan Knutson
Forum News Service

Plastic isn’t the first thing that most people associate with corn. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association is working to change that.

The association, working with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Polymers, is investing more than $460,000 in research focused on developing plastics made from renewable sources. The goal is replacing petroleum with renewable sources, such as corn, for making plastics

Corn-based plastics already are used, but have “some limiting physical property characteristics,” the association says.

The corn growers-supported research includes projects that will greatly increase how and where corn-based plastics can be used by adding toughness, strength, better thermal stability and other characteristics that will expand applications, the association says.

One example: Researchers are working on a project to increase the strength of grocery bags, while also having the potential to decompose quickly.

Other examples include diapers and glue.

With farm income continuing to decline, new markets for corn become even more important, the association notes.

This year alone, Minnesota corn farmers have invested more than $1.4 million in research at the University of Minnesota. Other research includes pest and plant disease, conservation and nutrient management best practices.

The funding comes through the corn checkoff, a small fee that’s assessed at the first point of sale, on every bushel of corn sold in Minnesota.

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