Start Date: Jan 05, 2009
End Date: Jan 04, 2014
We propose to develp a native biomass fuel mixture that will produce large quantities of biomass over a variety of marginal soil types under variable annual weather conditions. This mixture would also be easily established, persist in mixed stands for the long term (10-30 years), be harvested efficiently by machine, be easily processed and used in stocker furnaces for elecrical generation. The "biofuels prairie mix" will contain 16 species from at least five plant functional groups (C4 and C3 grasses, sedges, legumes and forbs). The "biofuels mix" will be compared with three other mixes: a control consisting of a pure stand of switchgrass, a stand of five species of productive warm-season grasses, and a "prairie reconstruction mix" comprised of 32 species typically used in prairie plantings. Treatments will be imposed in randomized, replicated plots, large enough for harvest with farm equiment and to provide sufficient material for test burning by Cedar Falls Utilities. The experimental design will be stratified by soil type. Baseline soil carbon data will be collected from the plots prior to planting prairie vegetation in the spring of 2008. Species composition, aboveground- and root biomass will be quantified in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Soil cores will be taken in 2012, to assess soil carbon changes under the vegetation treatments. Wildlife monitoring will begin in 2008 and continue through 2012.