2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The objective of this cooperative research project is to develop economically and environmentally sustainable uses for North Dakota’s natural resources by comparing the productivity of perennial warm and cool season potential bioenergy grasses at the western edge of the historic switchgrass range. Soil from plots testing 20 different treatments will be analyzed prior to planting and 5 and 10 years after establishment. This project will also educate producers and small communities concerning biomass crops and their economic and natural resource benefits including identifying the most appropriate perennial bioenergy crop(s) for each region and determining the requirements for and economics of establishment, maintenance and harvest and levels of soil carbon storage potential. Finally, data from this project will be used to evaluate the feasibility to provide enough consistent perennial biomass for 10% of the needs of a coal and biomass co-fired power plant.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Twenty treatments replicated four times will be established at five North Dakota State University (NDSU)Extension Service Experiment Stations (i.e. Hettinger, Williston, Minot, Streeter, and Carrington) in western and central North Dakota. Treatments include two harvests (annual and biennial) of three individual grass species and six mixes. The individual grass species are two switchgrass cultivars, tall wheatgrass, and intermediate wheatgrass. The mixes include: 1. a CRP mix with tall and intermediate wheatgrass; 2. a CRP mix with tall and intermediate wheatgrass plus alfalfa and sweetclover; 3. switchgrass and tall wheatgrass; 4. switchgrass and big bluestem; 5. switchgrasss and alti wildrye; and 6. alti and basin wildryes. Plots will be established and maintained for 10 years at each location by North Dakota Natural Resources Trust (NDNRT) and NDSU staff. Baseline soil samples were collected prior to grass planting and will be compared to soil samples collected 5 years after establishment and 10 years after establishment. Soil samples will be analyzed by USDA-ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory scientists for gravimetric water content, soil bulk density, electrical conductivity, soil pH, total carbon and nitrogen, soil inorganic carbon, particulate organic matter, extractable nitrate and phosphorus, glomalin, and water-stable aggregation.
During this reporting period, soil samples were collected at each site. These samples included both surface (0-15 cm) and deep core samples (0-120 cm). Glomalin and water stable aggregation are currently being evaluated on surface samples. Bulk density, gravimetric water content, electrical conductivity, soil pH, total carbon and nitrogen, inorganic carbon, particulate organic matter, and extractable nitrate and phosphorus are being measured in the deep core samples. Status updates have been provide during conference calls and in written reports among project members. These data sets will be used to assess changes in soil condition as well as calculate soil carbon accrual/loss rates following subsequent samplings in 2011 and 2016.