2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The principal objective of the project is to develop and enhance cooperative bioenergy research between USDA-ARS lead projects conducting bioenergy research on switchgrass, Sorghum, energy cane, Miscanthus, and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land with SunGrant University scientists conducting research on the same species at different locations.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
ARS scientists involved in bioenergy research on switchgrass, Sorghum, energy cane, Miscanthus, and CRP lands will attend SunGrant planning and reporting meetings and interact with scientist receiving SunGrant funds for bioenergy feedstock research, provide ARS bioenergy research accomplishment reports, reports on current research, and develop potential areas of cooperative and collaborative research where feasible. Except for initial preliminary planning sessions, ARS scientist involvement in SunGrant research has been limited because of SunGrant program imposed funding restrictions, even though ARS scientists are conducting leading research in the major energy crops.
ARS scientists attended the Sun Grant Feedstock Partnership planning and reporting meeting in Knoxville, TN on 15-17 February, 2011. ARS scientists interacted with other Sun Grant-funded scientists to develop potential areas of cooperative research. The ADODR monitored project activities through written progress updates, PowerPoint slides, phone conversations, and face-to-face meetings. Specific progress reports follow for each of the five bioenergy feedstocks.
Sun Grant and ARS team leaders expanded and re-directed the switchgrass activities for ARS this year. Rather than continuing with the switchgrass bale storage study, ARS-Lincoln will analyze about 150 switchgrass samples collected from all of the field sites in the regional feedstock trials. ARS-Lincoln will analyze the switchgrass samples to predict potential ethanol yield and about 20 other feedstock characteristics using NIRS. The samples have been processed, scanned, validated, and predicted. Data will be analyzed, summarized, and returned to the Sun Grant team leader.
The ARS sorghum team leader harvested biomass in 2010 and forwarded the data to the Sun Grant feedstock team leader as part of the sorghum evaluation trial. The ARS team leader planted sorghum hybrids in a replicated biomass trial near Mead, NE in mid June 2011. Seedlings have emerged and plants are growing. Harvest is planned for August.
The ARS energy cane team leader continues germplasm evaluations at DOE-funded locations from Georgia to Hawaii. Germplasm is being evaluated in northern locations to determine energy cane tolerance to cold, soil type, drought, flooding, and pests. Additional non-funded sites have received the same germplasm from the team leader. Investigations continue on yield, persistence, management inputs, fiber concentration and sugar content at the DOE-funded locations, with basic agronomic data being collected at non-funded sites.
Investigations continue on the invasive potential of Miscanthus. Seed dispersal studies are ongoing for two Miscanthus species. Studies of the potential impact of Miscanthus invasions on native plant diversity were initiated at six sites. In autumn 2010, all inflorescences were removed from Miscanthus in controlled experimental invasions to prevent seed dispersal. Sampling of the native community within the experimental invasion plots began in July 2011. Dispersal data indicates that Miscanthus caryopses can travel up to 400 m by ground level wind. Longer dispersal distances may be possible if lower atmospheric mixing and transport takes place.
The ARS CRP team leader for 2010 resigned due to health issues, and a new ARS team leader has been identified for 2011. Research will continue to evaluate the potential productivity of CRP for bioenergy production in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Research is ongoing to evaluate the biomass production potential of CRP grasslands to heat a rural school in Pennsylvania. Preliminary data have been gathered to identify available fields, biomass yields, and a strategy to conduct a life cycle assessment of the school while using biomass from CRP for winter heat.