REDESIGNING FORAGE GERMPLASM AND PRODUCTION SYSTEMS FOR EFFICIENCY, PROFIT, AND SUSTAINABILITY OF DAIRY FARMS
Location: Dairy Forage and Aquaculture Research
Title: Grasses and Legumes for Cellulosic Bioenergy
Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 20, 2008
Publication Date: May 11, 2009
Citation: Casler, M.D., Heaton, E., Shinners, K.J., Jung, H.G., Weimer, P.J., Liebig, M.A., Mitchell, R., Digman, M.F. 2009. Grasses and Legumes for Cellulosic Bioenergy. In: Wedin, W.F. and Fales, S.L., editors. Grassland: Quietness and Strength for a New American Agriculture. Madison, Wisconsin: ASA-CSSS-SSSA. p. 205-219.
Human life has been dependent on renewable sources of bioenergy for many thousands of years, from the time that humans first learned to control fire and utilize wood as the earliest source of bioenergy. Ironically, forage crops represent the next major technological breakthrough in renewable bioenergy when our ancestors began to domesticate livestock about 6000 years ago. Horses, cattle, oxen, water buffalo, and camels have long been used as sources of mechanical and chemical energy. As we now move to a greater reliance on perennial crops to provide biomass for energy production, forages once again take the forefront. Perennial forages can be utilized in all of the common energy conversion platforms, including combustion to produce heat, gasification to produce syngas as an alternative to methane, pyrolysis to produce a complex series of energy-rich gasses, and fermentation to produce liquid fuels. Warm-season grasses (most notably, switchgrass and miscanthus), cool-season grasses (reed canarygrass and wildryes), and legumes (most notably, alfalfa) are all candidates for bioenergy feedstock production in various regions of the USA. Although many perennial bioenergy crops are capable of producing economically viable amounts of biomass per acre, the lack of a seed industry to support bioenergy crop production and the lack of bioenergy conversion physical plants and infrastructure are current major limitations to direct involvement of producers in growing perennial bioenergy crops. Incentives include soil and water conservation programs, carbon credits, and the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program). The contents of this book chapter will be useful to scientists, students, and the general public who have interest in forage grasses and legumes.