Seeking New Opportunities Through Collaborative Corn Research

Research answers the “what if” questions that lead to new uses, new markets, new opportunities and new ways to grow corn even more efficiently and sustainably.

NCB research dollars are continually seeking new opportunities for corn farmers. What is the “next” ethanol? The emerging new use for corn that will again change the game for Nebraska farmers? What breakthrough will lead to significant change in the way farmers grow their crops, to use even less water, less fertilizer?

The majority of Nebraska Corn research dollars are invested in partnership with the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nebraska Corn also collaborates on research projects with fellow corn states, cooperators and other stakeholders.

Early corn plant coming out of the dirt

Research Priorities

Enhancing Demand & Adding Value

Nebraska’s corn farmers have the ability to grow more corn than consumers can currently utilize
as food, fuel or feed. In order to sustain the economic viability of corn farmers, it is critical that
we discover new uses and markets for Nebraska’s corn crop that meet the needs of a growing
and evolving world. NCB seeks to encourage research that will give the highest return to
Nebraska corn producers through:

  • Innovative research to find new uses for corn and corn products
  • Identify value-added uses of the chemicals/components of corn
  • Corn focused projects that result in commercialization of corn-based products or technology
  • Expanding/developing commercially significant markets for corn utilization

Ensuring Sustainability

Nebraska corn farmers are faced with the challenge of producing crops necessary to meet local,
national and international demands while maintaining the quality and quantity of resources for future generations. NCB supports research leading to regionally integrated system of plant and
animal production practices designed to produce long-term results such as:

  • Sustained economic viability of corn production in Nebraska
  • Improved efficiency of inputs
  • Enhanced carbon sequestration and improved measurement, reporting and verification
  • Minimizing threats from pests and diseases
  • Improved quality of surface water and groundwater resources
  • Improved soil health
  • Increased resilience to changing climate conditions and weather extremes

Supporting Agriculture and STEM Education

The future of farming in Nebraska depends not only on continuing to advance research-based
technologies and production practices, but also on improving consumer appreciation of the
importance of food, fuel, and feed production to human and animal health and sustainability.
NCB seeks proposals that include education and outreach as components of the research
project. Education and outreach components might include:

  • Promoting linkages among Pre-K through 12, two-year postsecondary and higher education
    programs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines related to food
    and agricultural sciences
  • Teacher preparation and professional development programs
  • Communicating agriculture research to non-ag audiences

To learn more about these and other NCB-funded research projects, contact Rachael Whitehair, Director of Innovation & Stewardship at

Cornfield being watered by an irrigation system

Submitting Research RFPs

The Nebraska Corn Board distributes an annual request for proposals (RFP) as a process to collect, review and ultimately decide on proposals to fund. Although we request that proposals be submitted for research during this process, the Nebraska Corn Board will review proposals through the year, should they be submitted outside of the annual RFP process and timeline.

Explore Top Research Projects Current and Recent

  • Biodegradable Plastics Production from Ethanol Byproducts

    This project seeks to add value to the US corn crop by producing a biodegradable plastic, called PHA, from co-products of the ethanol production process. New policy initiatives around the world have banned single-use plastics. This new sustainably sourced alternative degrades naturally in just a few months and could be a viable replacement to single-use plastics.

  • Develop a Digital N Dashboard to Diagnose and Improve Corn N Use Efficiency

    Nitrogen (N) fertilizer is necessary for high corn yields and farmer profitability. While Nebraska corn growers have steadily improved nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE) in corn production over the last 50 years, room still exists to improve NUE, while maintaining or increasing yields. This project seeks to develop an online platform that allows farmers to evaluate current NUE and identify agricultural practices to increase their efficiency without losing yields and profit.

  • Genomes to Fields

    The Genomes to Fields Initiative (G2F) seeks to understand how differences in genotype, environment and management decisions interact to determine difference in yield across different farms, environments, and years. Understanding what factors affect corn yield in certain areas is critical to guide management decisions, as well as the selection of the proper hybrids for specific environments. This work has been underway since 2014 and involves researchers from 22 states.

  • Impact of Traditional and New Distillers Grains on Methane Production

    Beef production is often considered a negative impact on the environment due to concerns with greenhouse gas emissions, particularly due to methane produced during fermentation. This study uses pen-level methane barns to capture and quantify the impact of feeding different types of distillers grains and feed combinations on methane gas production. If feeding distillers grains decreases methane production, then value increases for use in beef feedlots, particularly if the distillers are of common types in Nebraska. Curriculum is also being added so students can see and learn about how cattle digest forage and grains (and distillers grains) through rumen fermentation.

  • Improving UNL Nitrogen Algorithm with the 4Rs of Nitrogen Management

    Nebraska is increasingly facing significant nitrogen (N) management challenges in sustaining corn production while protecting drinking groundwater quality. One option to address these challenges is to follow the “4Rs” concept (the Right source, at the Right place, in the Right time and at the Right rate). Results of this study will be used to improve UNL’s nitrogen algorithm and provide much-needed information to stakeholders in identifying the Right fertilizer source and Right placement at the Right timing of N application for sustaining crop yield, improving profits, reducing N losses and protecting water quality.

  • Innovative Corn Rootworm Management

    The western corn rootworm is a major pest of continuous corn in Nebraska that feeds on corn roots, reducing plant growth and lowering yields. This insect is highly adaptable and has evolved resistance to many management strategies used against it. This project tests innovative tactics to combat the spread of corn rootworm including biological control and cover crops. A truly integrated IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach is critical to staying ahead of this crop pest.

  • Innovative Youth Corn Challenge

    It is important that youth recognize career pathways in the food, agriculture, and natural resource industries to fill those jobs. Since 2012, the Innovative Youth Corn Challenge has engaged 178 youth with in-depth, experiential learning. This partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Extension has created an awareness of agronomic-related career opportunities and successfully involved youth in rigorous hands-on inquiry-based learning through completion of on-farm research or demonstration plots in Nebraska corn fields.

  • Interseeding Cover Crops Into Early Vegetative Stage Corn

    Cover crops (CC) have the potential to improve soil health and sustainability of cropping operations. In corn systems it is difficult to incorporate cover crops due to the short growing windows before planting and after harvest. Having the cover crop establish while the corn is growing may be an option to increase the CC biomass and the potential benefits. This project is evaluating the impacts of incorporating early interseeded cover crops with and without grazing on soil health and yield. This research and education project will allow us to gain new knowledge of integrated management impacts on soil health, crop and cattle productivity and farm profitability.


  • Making the AG Budget Calculator (ABC) A More Effective Financial Decision Tool

    The University of Nebraska is developing the Ag Budget Calculator (ABC) program to assist producers in developing individualized cash and economic cost and return estimates. ABC is a user-friendly, Windows- and Mac-compatible online budgeting system that provides breakeven and enterprise cost and return metrics useful in production, cost control and other management decision-making. Users can either develop their crop budgets from scratch or upload one of the 80-plus University of Nebraska crop budgets and then customize that budget to match their cropping practices.

  • Nebraska On-Farm Research Program

    Nebraska corn growers are constantly challenged to grow corn responsibly using proven sustainable practices resulting in less impact on the environment. Corn growers typically ask the question, “Does this new production practice or a specific input work to improve the corn yield on my farm and does it provide an economic payback?” On-farm research can help a grower answer these important questions. The focus of this program is to enhance the ability for corn growers to make data-driven decisions and remain competitive leaders in corn production.

  • Sustainable Manufacturing of High-Quality Carbon Fibers from Corn Kernel Fibers

    Corn kernel fiber is a natural, renewable and low-cost resource created through the ethanol production process. Currently, it is used as a low-grade animal feed ingredient, but it could have another use. Carbon fiber (CF), a synthetic material used in electronics, aviation and automobile manufacturing is currently created from petroleum-based products. This project has developed a novel process of converting corn kernel fiber to high-quality carbon fiber. This new, high-value specialty product is important for increasing the value of Nebraska’s corn crop.

  • UNL-Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS)

    The UNL Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) program is a farm management competition that challenges producers in areas of input use efficiency and profitability. The goals and mission of the TAPS program align closely with those of the Nebraska Corn Board (NCB), especially as we seek to identify sustainable and profitable management practices and solutions for corn production. A key benefit of the TAPS program is that it provides producers the opportunity to try new and emerging technologies and management strategies prior to purchasing and adopting on their own farm. This program provides a touchstone where people can observe and use new ideas, test conventional wisdom, and discover better ways to do business in an environment of friendly competition.