Location: National Soil Dynamics Laboratory
Title: Winter Cover Crop Biomass for Biofuel Production, Implications for Soil Coverage and Profitability Authors
Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: October 23, 2006
Publication Date: October 23, 2006
Citation: Price, A.J., Bergtold, J.S., Raper, R.L. 2006. Winter Cover Crop Biomass for Biofuel Production, Implications for Soil Coverage and Profitability [abstract]. Auburn University Symposium “Energy Solutions for Alabama Natural Resources”, Auburn, AL. 2006 CDROM. Technical Abstract: High residue winter cover crops are critical for maximizing conservation tillage system benefits, including reductions in soil erosion, improved soil productivity, higher crop yields and greater net returns from crop production. With the increasing demand for biofuel production, the potential to harvest a potion of winter cover biomass may provide an additional source of revenue for farmers. However, the amount of biomass that should be harvested for biofuel production is relatively unknown. The benefits received from winter cover crops depend on the level of biomass left as surface residue. Additionally, NRCS currently requires 30 to 70 percent surface residue coverage to qualify for cost-share funds in EQIP and CSP. Any decision about what percentage of your cover crop to harvest for biofuel production must weigh the impact from removing cover crop biomass. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of winter cover biomass removal on cotton crop production and farm profitability to determine its potential as an input for biofuel production. Two experiments in central and northern Alabama were established to examine the effect of alternative levels of rye biomass on cotton production and profitability. Economic models were developed to determine the potential for using cover biomass for biofuel production, while taking into account cropping needs and NRCS program requirements. Results show that removal of cover crop biomass may result in a decrease in total net-returns from the cropping enterprise if yield losses from reduced biomass are greater than the returns from selling it. Furthermore, removal of cover crop biomass could substantially decrease opportunities for NRCS cost share programs by failing to meet programmatic minimum residue level requirements.