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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

2012 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 is related to the following objective of the parent project: Objective 1. Develop new germplasm of perennial forage species that display increased yield and bioconversion potential. Created field designs for establishment of 39 regional uniform field trials in the North Central USA: 13 locations each of three species (switchgrass, indiangrass, and big bluestem). Planted trials at three locations in Wisconsin: Arlington, Marshfield, and Spooner. Collected data on switchgrass nurseries established in 2011. Established new selection and evaluation nurseries in 2012, for use in genomic selection experiments, using late-flowering lowland families that had previously undergone selection for winter survival in Wisconsin. Irrigated 2012 selection nurseries on a daily basis to keep them alive during periods of severe drought and elevated temperatures. Collected agronomic field data, soil samples, and biomass tissue samples on five field experiments designed to be part of the Objective 2 Factor Analysis. Field experiments are designed to evaluate main effects and interactions of cultivars, nitrogen rates, and harvest dates (ranging from peak biomass at anthesis to post-winter standing crop) at multiple locations for 4-5 production years.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/18/2017
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