Location: Grain, Forage & Bioenergy Research
2012 Annual Report
Sorghum 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.
Energy cane 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.
Miscanthus 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.
CRP lands 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.