2012 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-Lincoln analyzed the composition of 168 switchgrass biomass samples collected from all of the field sites in Iowa, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Virginia as part of the regional feedstock trials. ARS-Lincoln analyzed and predicted potential ethanol yield and about 20 other feedstock characteristics using NIRS. Data has been analyzed, predicted, summarized, and returned to the Sun Grant team leader. Based on wet lab costs, this analysis provided >$75,000 of laboratory data to the project.
The ARS sorghum team leader harvested biomass in 2011 and forwarded the data to the Sun Grant feedstock team leader as part of the sorghum evaluation trial. In 2011, biomass was difficult to dry in the field (standing or windrowed). The ARS team leader recommends that in Eastern NE (high fertility, high rainfall), early harvest (mid-late August) helps avoid lodging and sudangrass and sorghum x sudangrass hybrids should be harvested, conditioned, and baled early in the season. The ARS team leader planted sorghum hybrids in a replicated biomass trial near Mead, NE in 2012. Material will be harvested at peak biomass.
The ARS energy cane team leader retired in 2011, but germplasm evaluations continue 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. Non-funded sites as far north as 41.5 N. latitude have received 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 were published for two Miscanthus species. Dispersal data indicates that dispersal of Miscanthus inflorescence parts declined rapidly with distance from the seed source and can travel up to 400 m by ground level wind. Longer dispersal distances may be possible if lower atmospheric mixing and transport takes place. Studies of the potential impact of Miscanthus invasions on native plant diversity were initiated at six sites. All inflorescences were removed from Miscanthus in controlled experimental invasions to prevent seed dispersal. Sampling of the native community within the experimental invasion plots will continue in 2012.
Research continued to evaluate the potential productivity of CRP for bioenergy production. Research is ongoing to evaluate the biomass production potential of CRP grasslands to replace fuel oil for residential and light commercial heating in the Northeast. Fuel oil currently costs about $3.25/gallon, wood pellets can be purchased in bulk for an equivalent of $1.50/gallon of fuel oil, but some growers can produce their own grass pellets for an equivalent of $0.90/gallon of fuel oil.
ARS scientists attended the Sun Grant Feedstock Partnership planning and reporting meeting in Indianapolis, IN on 14-15 March, 2012. ARS scientists interacted with other Sun Grant-funded scientists to develop potential areas of cooperative research. ARS Principal Investigator montoring activities to evaluate research progress included meetings, email, phone calls, discussions and annual workshops/conferences, and review of accomplishment reports and PowerPoint slides.