2012 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
This regional CAP project will develop sustainable bioenergy production systems for the Midwest or North Central States of the USA based on perennial grasses grown on marginal croplands in the region. The Bioenergy CAP project has eight different components. ARS scientists in the Northern Plains Area, Midwest Area, and Northeast Area are participating in two components “Feedstock Development” or breeding and “Sustainable Production Systems” or management. Specific objectives are to develop improved cultivars of switchgrass, big bluestem, indiangrass, and native legumes for the North Central USA for conversion to liquid fuels in biorefineries with an emphasis on pyrolysis. Improved management practices will be developed to optimize biomass yields and feedstock quality while reducing economic costs and inputs and enhancing the environmental benefits of utilizing perennial grasses in production systems on marginal lands.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Feedstock development work will be conducted by ARS-Lincoln (K. Vogel) and ARS-Madison (M. Casler). Breeding work at Lincoln will develop improved grasses and legumes for the central latitudes of the USA while Madison will develop improved grasses for the northern latitudes. Current work on switchgrass for biomass energy and forage breeding of big bluestem, indiangrass, and native legume will be expanded to include breeding for biomass energy. Sorghum will be used as a model species to test effect of changes in biomass quality on pyrolysis yields. Feedstock production work (R. Mitchell) will have system analyses trials in which large plots (about 0.5 hectare) will be used to obtain sustainability information including C sequestration, greenhouse gas, economic, and system productivity information. Factor analysis trials will have small plot studies that will be used to address specific problem areas such as fertilizer rates, harvest dates, herbicides, and other management variables.
Feedstock development research that was completed in the first year of the project by ARS-Lincoln included the establishment of two switchgrass, one big bluestem, and five indiangrass half-sib family selection nurseries at the University of Nebraska’s Agricultural Research and Development Center (NE-ARDC) near Mead, NE using greenhouse grown seedlings. Over ten thousand plants were transplanted to establish these nurseries. Four switchgrass selection nurseries established in 2011 at the NE-ARDC for this project were managed for biomass production in 2012. Four switchgrass half-sib family selection nurseries were established at the University of Wisconsin Arlington Agricultural Research Station in spring 2012 by ARS-Madison. These nurseries included ~15,000 plants to be used for genomic selection for increased biomass yield. Data collection was initiated in two switchgrass half-sib family selection nurseries were established at the University of Wisconsin Arlington Agricultural Research Station in 2011. Phenotypic and genotypic data from these two nurseries will form the initial training population for genomic selection. Switchgrass, big bluestem, and indiangrass yield trials were planted at 13 Midwest locations by ARS projects at Lincoln, NE and Madison, WI, CenUSA investigators and other cooperators. Included in the trials are 22 switchgrass entries (7 cultivars and 15 experimental strains), 12 big bluestem entries (7 cultivars and 5 experimental strains), and 12 indiangrass entries (6 cultivars and 6 experimental strains). Factor analysis trials in which small plot studies will be used to address specific biomass problem areas such as fertilizer rates, harvest dates, herbicides, and other management variables were established by ARS-Lincoln at the NE-ARDC and Arlington, WI by ARS-Madison and other CenUSA cooperators at Iowa State University, Purdue University, University of Minnesota, and the University of Illinois. System analyses research was conducted on studies in progress at NE-ARDC, Purdue University, Iowa State University and additional newly established trials at NE-ARDC by ARS-Lincoln. Diseases and insects were monitored at the NE-ARDC on breeding nurseries by University of Nebraska plant pathologists and entomologists. Initial composition analyses and pyrolysis analyses was conducted by ARS scientists at Peoria, IL and Wyndmoor, PA on biomass samples provided by ARS-Lincoln.