MCGA invests in developing corn-based plastics

Minnesota’s corn farmers support the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) in their mission to develop the next generation of bioplastics. As part of this support, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) announced it would be investing more than $460,000 in CSP research focused on the development of plastics made from renewable sources.

MCGA-supported CSP research aims to replace petroleum as a feedstock for plastics with renewable sources like corn. In doing so, the environmental impact of plastic, both in its making and disposal, could be drastically reduced.

Corn-based plastics, including polylactic acid (PLA) plastics are used today but have some limiting physical property characteristics. Research supported by the state’s corn farmers 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.

For example, CSP researchers are developing a process that increases the ductility of PLA plastics, or the strength of the plastic when stretched. With the added pliability, grocery bags made with PLA will have the potential to be strong and decompose quickly, as opposed to becoming an environmental hazard. Other CSP research supported by MCGA in the years ahead includes using corn to produce eco-friendly plastics and polyesters that make up everyday items from take-home food containers to diapers and glue.

“The collaboration between Minnesota’s corn growers and the Center for Sustainable Polymers is especially exciting in its potential for both corn farmers and consumers,” MCGA President Brian Thalmann said. “While our mission is to build a more sustainable future on the farm, this research has implications that would help address a number of the major environmental concerns we are facing globally.”

As Minnesota’s corn farmers face consecutive years of declining farm income, new markets for the nation’s corn supply continue to be vital. By helping fund a diverse portfolio of research at the Center for Sustainable Polymers, the state’s corn growers are identifying a new use for the state’s corn supply with tremendous environmental benefits for all.

In 2019, Minnesota corn farmers have invested more than $1.4 million in research at the University of Minnesota. In addition to the research taking place at CSP, MCGA supports a variety of research through the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, College of Science and Engineering and Extension. This includes efforts to address pest and plant disease, conservation tactics like cover crops, nutrient management best practices and more. 

Overall, MCGA invests $2.5 million annually in third-party research that advances its mission of making Minnesota’s corn farmers the most sustainable and environmentally responsible corn farmers in the nation. For more information, click here.

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