2013 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 and ARS-Madison. 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 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.
A second application of biochar was made to research plots near Ames, IA, that had received eight tons/acre of biochar in the autumn of 2007. An additional five tons/acre of biochar was applied and incorporated by chisel plowing. Five years of corn grain and stover yields had been monitored following the initial application. No identifiable benefits or detriments associated with the biochar application were noted. Infiltration measurements made during the spring of 2013 showed no significant effects for comparisons between chisel tilled plots with and without a history of biochar application. Monitoring of yield and stover quality is continuing.