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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Water and Carbon Footprint and Plant Parameters of Biofuel Production on the Hc&s Sugarcane Lands in Maui, Hawaii

Location: Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
To determine plant growth, water use, and carbon footprint of sugarcane and/or other energy plants in the HC&S croplands in Maui, Hawaii.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Eddy covariance systems will be installed to measured crop ET and net CO2 exchange. On-site sensor maintenance including sensor replacement if needed, repositioning sensor height as plant grows, switching batteries as system power reserve will be performed. Measurements of fraction of ground canopy cover and canopy height will also be carried out on satellite overpass days. A plot study will be carried out to develop and validate algorithms for detecting and determining water stress and water use efficiency using thermal remote sensing. Periodic ground measurements will include canopy temperature, leaf stomatal conductance, fraction of ground canopy cover, canopy height, leaf area index, and final yield. Soil core samples for carbon stock assessment will be taken from multiple depths and locations near planting and after harvest. Soluble organic carbon and total soil carbon and nitrogen will be analyzed. Plant parameters needed for ALMANAC model simulation will include documentation of green-up, faction of intercepted PAR, leaf area index, within season try weight and nutrient concentrations, and final dry weight.


3.Progress Report:

The objective of this project to determine plant growth, water use, and carbon footprint of sugarcane and/or other energy plants and contributes to objective 1 of the in-house project 5320-21610-001-00D that this was originally established under. This Specific Cooperative Agreement (SCA) will be renumbered under 5320-21000-015-00D after a pending amendment to extend the project is completed.

The Maui project field team continued to collect data on soil moisture, light interception, biomass/yield, and leaf area for the primary field locations and different crops to monitor datasets for a series of plant and soil parameters as necessary for model simulation. Scheduled harvests for all crops occurred regularly with the field team’s participation. Tetracam images and crop scan of field sites were collected biweekly in concert with the remote sensed satellite data for calibration and routine maintenance and troubleshooting were conducted. The two Eddy flux towers were maintained and cleaned, adjusted, and troubleshot as needed. The field team also provided support for visiting ARS researchers, primarily collected soil and plant samples, and sensor calibration, and provided other services as requested.

A one-year study of the effect of deficit irrigation and grass species (Napier grass and sugarcane) concluded. The objectives of this study were two-fold: to identify the effects of deficit irrigation on greenhouse gas (GHG) production, root biomass, and soil carbon storage on a short-time scale in order to provide management direction for plantation operations on Maui, and to quantify and assess the long-term implications for biofuel production in Hawaii by evaluating different crop scenarios based on their ecosystem carbon budgets and greenhouse gas index.

Average exchanges were 112 and 156 milligrams carbon dioxide per square meter per hour, -7.81 and -9.43 micrograms of methane per square meter per hour, and 1.46 and 2.48 milligrams of nitrous oxide per square meter per hour for sugar cane and Napier grass, respectively. Methane exchanges were predominantly negative during the study period, which suggest that agricultural soils on Maui are a sink for atmospheric methane. From a global-warming potential perspective, this sink was approximately equal to the source of nitrous oxide measured on an annual basis. Application of N based fertilizer caused significant increases in the rate of nitrous oxide emissions from both species, but within five days returned to baseline. There was a significant increase in soil carbon stock in the top 0-40 cm across the field for both species, however no difference in root biomass or change in carbon stock occurred between species. While short-term quantification of these gases suggested reduced soil-based emissions from the sugarcane crop, long-term analysis found all sugarcane scenarios to be a net source of carbon to the atmosphere whereas Napier scenarios were net sinks. These findings will help guide management to adopt irrigation, fertilizer, and cropping practices that benefit long-term sustainability of these bioenergy systems in Hawaii.


Last Modified: 7/23/2014
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