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Miscanthus and Switchgrass Bioenergy Production and Soil Remediation On Marginal and Vulnerable Landscapes

2013 USDA-NIFA Seed Award

Principal Investigators and affiliations:
PI:  Dr. Newell Kitchen (USDA-ARS)
Co-PI:  Dr. Ray Massey (University of Missouri)
Co-PI:  Dr.  Bob Kremer (USDA-ARS)
Co-PI:  Dr.  Allen Thompson (University of Missouri)
Co-PI:  Dr.  Ken Sudduth (USDA ARS)
Co-PI:  Dr.  Brent Myers (USDA ARS)
Co-PI:  Dr.  Emily Heaton (Iowa State University)
Funded: $160,000
Start Date: 4/30/2013

End Date: 4/29/2015


Expected Outcomes

Bioenergy crops offer the potential for revitalized rural communities. The knowledge gained from this research will advance producer adoption by quantifying production risks and providing bioenergy crop BMPs. This is critical for success of current and future bioenergy projects since continued BCAP federal funding seems unlikely, and the risks will be increasingly borne by producers and industry.


From our previous research on degraded soils, we expect miscanthus and switchgrass yield to be less on these soils than when grown on more productive soils. Factors such as topsoil depth, depth to restrictive layers, and lost soil organic C will likely not be inconsequential. However, we expect less spatial and temporal variability in biomass yields than grain crops grown on these same soils. Further, we expect to see N requirements for these bioenergy crops to be greater with intensity of degradation, primarily because of lost soil organic C. We expect to obtain a suitable set of measurements that will allow calibration and testing of the ALMANAC model for these bioenergy crops on degraded soils. We expect some soil remediation effects to be realized within the years of this proposal, especially for acres converting from grain crop production to the perennial bioenergy crops. Remediation will undoubtedly be a function of crop establishment success and accumulated production. However, we expect the greatest soil improvement to be with the most degraded soils. We anticipate the field sites identified in Study 3 to provide valuable reference for soil C storage potential from miscanthus production.

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