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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Research Project #426361

Research Project: Determining Maximum Sustainable Production of Biomass with Mixture of Prairie Species

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Project Number: 5030-21610-002-52-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jan 5, 2014
End Date: Mar 31, 2015

The overall objective of this project is to determine the optimal mixture of native prairie vegetation for the most efficient means of sustainable production of biomass for electrical generation, while maintaining wildlife habitat and other prairie conservation benefits.

We propose to develop a native biomass fuel mixture that will produce large quantities of biomass over a variety of marginal soil types under variable annual weather conditions. This mixture would also be easily established, persist in mixed stands for the long term (10-30 years), be harvested efficiently by machine, be easily processed, and used in stocker furnaces for electrical generation. The "biofuels prairie mix" will contain 16 species from at least five plant functional groups (C4 and C3 grasses, sedges, legumes and forbs). The "biofuels mix" will be compared with three other mixes: a control consisting of a pure stand of switchgrass, a stand of five species of productive warm-season grasses, and a "prairie reconstruction mix" comprised of 32 species typically used in prairie plantings. Treatments will be imposed in randomized, replicated plots, large enough for harvest with farm equipment and to provide sufficient material for test burning by Cedar Falls Utilities. The experimental design will be stratified by soil type. Baseline soil carbon data was collected from the experiment prior to planting prairie vegetation in the spring of 2008. Soil cores will be taken in 2014 to assess soil carbon changes under the vegetation treatments.