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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Sustainable Production and Distribution of Bioenergy for the Central USA

Location: Dairy Forage Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
1) Feedstock Development: a) develop improved cultivars and hybrids of perennial grasses for use in bioenergy production systems, b) initiate breeding work on native legumes for use in these systems; 2) Sustainable Production Systems: c) optimize perennial biomass and ecosystem services while maintaining food production; 3) Logistics: d) develop logistics systems that are easily adaptable, produce highly consistent feedstocks converted by pyrolysis, and are economically, energetically, and environmentally sustainable, e) investigate novel harvest and transport systems, f) evaluate harvest and supply chain logistic costs; 4) System Performance Metrics: g) identify and characterize sustainable bioenergy landscape systems to achieve social, economic, and environmental goals under a range of market prices and environmental values, h) understand the full set of social, economic, and environmental consequences of introducing herbaceous perennial bioenergy crops and biochar soil amendment systems onto Midwest agricultural landscapes; 5) Conversion: i) identify germplasm with characteristics amenable to pyrolytic conversion, j) evaluate the performance of a bioenergy system based on pyrolytic conversion of biomass into bio-oils and their subsequent upgrading to drop-in biofuels; 6) Markets and Distribution: k) study and evaluate policy, market, and contract mechanisms to facilitate the broad level adoption by private sector farmers, l) evaluate impacts of the advanced biofuels system on regional and global food, feed, energy, and fiber markets; 7) Health and Safety: m) develop procedures for managing risks and protecting health while handling, transporting and applying biochar n) develop procedures for monitoring and managing risks associated with changes in production and transporting of biomass and derived fuels; 8) Education: o) provide interdisciplinary training and engagement opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, p) develop K-12 learning activities; 9) Extension: q) establish a “citizen science” program in collaboration producers, consultants, managers, and other stakeholders to design, perform, and manage perennial grass and biochar evaluations, r) share their knowledge and adoption decisions with other stakeholders.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
1) Feedstock Development: a) develop plant materials for plant adaptation regions using conventional and molecular breeding technologies; 2) Sustainable Production Systems: b) BMPs applied to large perennial biomass systems strategically located in the region will be evaluated with respect to system inputs including nutrient and water use, GHG, soil C, productivity and ecosystem services, c) smaller factor-analysis plots will test discrete hypotheses for agronomic practices and biochar application, d) modeling will extend knowledge from field plots to watershed scales; 3) Logistics: e) investigate novel harvest and transport systems, f) demonstrate these systems at field-scale, g) evaluate harvest and supply chain logistic costs, including the interaction between feedstock supply costs, scale of operations and distribution of production across landscapes, h) evaluate technologies for more efficient and lower cost de-construction and drying of biomass feedstock; 4) System Performance Metrics: i) undertake additional development of existing biophysical models so that they best represent the new science generated from the field trials and other experiments, j) undertake additional development of existing economic land-use models so that they best represent cropping system production costs and returns, k) develop and integrate physical and economic models to create a single spatially-explicit simulation model that represents a wide variety of land-use configurations, l) parameterize existing life cycle assessment models to understand cradle-to-grave consequences of various land-use configurations and bioenergy conversion strategies.

3. Progress Report:
This project supports Objective 1 of the parent project: Develop new germplasm of perennial forage species that display increased yield and bioconversion potential. A field study to evaluate improved switchgrass strains from the USDA-ARS breeding programs in Lincoln, Nebraska and Madison, Wisconsin was completed in January 2013. Collaborators contributed to this study by funding the final year of field data collection and processing of biomass-quality samples for three years and five locations. Simulation studies of various levels of multiplexing genotypes revealed that the loss of information with 12-plex or 24-plex coverage falls within acceptable limits. Multiplexing at the 12-plex level led to an average genome coverage of 110 million bases (Mb) (6% of the entire genome), including approximately 1.3 million SNP (single-nucleotide polymorphism) markers read at a depth of 2 or more reads and 1 million SNP markers read at a depth of 5 or more. The results of these simulations indicate that between 12 and 24 different genotypes can be sequenced in a single lane without compromising the integrity of the genomic selection protocol. Forty thousand switchgrass and big bluestem seedlings were transplanted into ten new selection nurseries at either Arlington or Hancock, Wisconsin field sites. Survivorship data was collected on three genomic selection nurseries that derive from 300 switchgrass families. All biomass samples collected in 2012 were scanned using Near-Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS). A new set of 40 diverse switchgrass samples were selected for wet-laboratory analysis to expand and update NIRS calibrations. Samples were submitted to collaborators for analysis. Four project-related manuscripts were submitted for peer review in scientific journals.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/18/2017
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