Determination of Energy Content of Crop and Cover Crop Biomass
Crop Production Systems Research Unit
2012 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Thermodynamically measure the energy content of crops, cover crops, and crop residue for potential carbon sequestration or utility as biofuels or soil amendments.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Cover crops and cash crops will be grown and plant residue harvested. The dried plant materials will be ground. Energy content of all plant materials will be determined in a bomb calorimeter. Energy content and carbon content production will be determined on a land area basis for potential use as biofuels or soil amendments to improve soil organic carbon content. Carbon sequestration potential of the various crops and cover crops will be calculated.
The changing landscape of agricultural production is placing unprecedented demands on farmers as they face increasing global competition and greater natural resource conservation challenges. However, shrinking profit margins due to increasing input costs, particularly of fuel and fertilizer, can restrict the incorporation of potentially beneficial management practices. Research in progress under this cooperative agreement is designed to improve crop productivity, sustainability and profitability for the humid growing environment of the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Flood Plain by examining biomass accumulation and energy content of various plant parts, to determine the potential for their use as alternative fuel sources. Calorific values of agricultural crops and their waste were measured by adiabatic bomb calorimetry. Sustainable farming techniques require that all potential sources of revenue be utilized. A wide variety of biomass is beginning to be used as alternative fuels all over the world. The energy potential of low value crops and crop residue has the capacity of making a small farm self sustaining in times of low market value. The caloric values of all portions of six predominant crops were measured individually to evaluate its potential as an energy source. Rice, corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat, and sweet potatoes were included in this study. Additional parameters evaluated were moisture content, density, and ash content. The experimental results, indicating crop biomass caloric values exceeding 16 kJ g-1, make it feasible to use these materials as alternative fuels. The research indicates potential new uses for agricultural crops and crop residues, and contributes to the growing biofuel industry in Mississippi.