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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #300346

Title: Crop residue harvest economics: An Iowa and North Dakota case study

item Archer, David
item Karlen, Douglas
item Liebig, Mark

Submitted to: BioEnergy Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/23/2014
Publication Date: 4/28/2014
Publication URL:
Citation: Archer, D.W., Karlen, D.L., Liebig, M.A. 2014. Crop residue harvest economics: An Iowa and North Dakota case study. BioEnergy Research. 7(2):568-575.

Interpretive Summary: There is continued interest in energy production from biomass, including crop residues such as wheat straw and corn stover. The biomass industry and farmer need to know how much biomass can be profitably produced, and this includes understanding how harvesting crop residue affects future crop production. The costs of producing crop residues can vary between sites with different soils, weather, and crop production systems. Data from field research studies at multiple locations are available in a publicly accessible web site. This study demonstrates the use of a tool built to retrieve data from the web site generate production cost information. The tool was used to use information from field studies in Iowa and North Dakota to compare the profitability of crop residue harvest strategies. Results show that biomass can be harvested at low removal rates with little short-term impact on crop productivity. Results also show that biomass can be harvested at lower costs at the lower harvest rates. However, it will be important to monitor longer-term changes to see if grain profitability decreases. Results showed that biomass could be profitably produced in the short-term at prices in the field of $24-38 per dry ton at the Iowa site, and $13-49 per dry ton at the North Dakota site. These results provide farmers and the biomass industry biomass cost information, and provide a tool for future use in analyzing biomass production costs and comparing production methods at other sites.

Technical Abstract: Rigorous economic analyses are crucial for the successful launch of lignocellulosic bioenergy facilities in 2014 and beyond. Our objectives are to (1) introduce readers to a query tool developed to use data downloaded from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) REAPnet for constructing enterprise budgets, and 2) demonstrate the use of the query tool with REAPnet data from two field research sites (Ames, IA and Mandan, ND) for evaluating short-term economic performance of various biofuel feedstock production strategies. Our results for both sites showed that short-term (<3-yr) impacts on grain profitability were lower at lower average annual crop residue removal rates. However, it will be important to monitor longer-term changes to see if grain profitability declines over time and if biomass harvest degrades soil resources. Analyses for Iowa showed short-term breakeven field-edge biomass prices of $26-42 Mg-1 among the most efficient strategies, while results for North Dakota showed breakeven prices of $54-73 Mg-1. We suggest that development of the data query tool is important because it helps illustrate several different soil and crop management strategies that could be used to provide sustainable feedstock supplies.