Submitted to: Grass and Beef Research Review, N. Dakota St. Univ., Central Grasslands Research Center
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/2002
Publication Date: 1/1/2003
Citation: VOGEL, K.P., SCHMER, M.R., PERRIN, R.K., MOSER, L.E., MITCHELL, R. FIELD SCALE EVALUATION OF SWITCHGRASS GROWN AS A BIOENERGY CROP IN THE NORTHERN PLAINS. 2003. p14. NDSU Grass and Beef Research Review, Central Grasslands Research Center, Streeter, ND.
Technical Abstract: Economic analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Economic Research Service, USDA, indicated that the Northern Plains states of North and South Dakota and Nebraska were states in which switchgrass had potential to be an economically viable energy crop. Field scale production information and economic analysis based on field scale results were needed to validate previous small plot research and associated economic analysis. In 2000, the USDA-ARS (Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Unit--Lincoln, Nebraska and the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, Mandan, North Dakota) in cooperation with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and DOE began growing switchgrass on a commercial scale on eleven fields in Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota (Figure 1). The Central Grassland Research Station, North Dakota State University, Streeter, ND is one of the cooperating locations. All other fields are on privately owned and operated farms. Field sizes range from 7-23 acres. Fields were planted on Nebraska farms in 2000 and on South Dakota and North Dakota farms in 2001. The results to date clearly demonstrate the need to obtain good stands and the need to control costs the establishment year by the use of good management. Establishment year costs ranged from $35 to $160 per acre. High establishment costs were due to multiple tillage operations and multiple applications of herbicides. Good stands were obtained on several farms with no-till planting and effective use of herbicides at costs of approximately $45 per acre or less. The data from Streeter and other sites indicates that a frequency grid stand of 40% or greater (equivalent to 1 to 2 plants per square foot) is sufficient to produce switchgrass as a bioenergy crop. Biomass yields have varied widely due to drought conditions in the region. The fields will be harvested for another three years. The production and economic information from this study will be used in economic analyses to determine the potential profitability of switchgrass grown as a biomass crop in the Northern Plains and to plan research to reduce production costs and increase biomass yields.