August Field Days Focus on Switchgrass as Bioenergy Feedstock
It's not uncommon for farms to have troublesome areas where corn and soybean yields don't quite measure up due to various physical features because of their vulnerability to soil erosion. These underutilized areas and marginal lands might be better suited for establishing perennial bioenergy grasses, especially switchgrass.
Switchgrass is a hardy, warm season perennial grass that was previously known for its use as a forage crop. However, plant breeders and agronomists have now developed a switchgrass cultivar named "Liberty" that has proven to be a high yielding biomass crop. This renewable, nonfood energy feedstock holds great potential for conversion into a "drop-in fuel" and subsequently lessening dependence on fossil-derived fuels. While switchgrass isn't a new crop, the logistical challenges of harvesting, storing, transporting, and marketing it as a bioenergy feedstock are still being researched.
Field days on Aug. 19 at Beaver Crossing and Aug. 20 at Dawson will provide information on the agronomics, economics and sustainability of biomass production of switchgrass and other perennial bioenergy grasses. They will include drill and harvest demonstrations and discussion, as well as the opportunity to see various grass varieties. Topics will include:
- pest and disease management;
- genetics establishment/management/economics;
- harvest/marketing – commercialization/biomass – biofuel conversion process;
- alternative uses – livestock; and
- environmental benefits – soil/water/wildlife.
Liberty switchgrass will be featured at the field days. According to UNL Extension Educators, Keith Glewen and John Hay, nearly two decades of research and breeding by the USDA-ARS grass breeding program at UNL has gone into developing this variety. Liberty was developed for the Midwest as a bioenergy crop with a high rate of winter survival combined with high yields.
The field days are free, but preregistration is encouraged for meal planning. Registration includes complimentary noon lunch, refreshments, and field day materials. Preregister at http://ardc.unl.edu/bioenergyfeedstockfieldday or by calling UNL Extension at 402-624-8030.
Registration day of program is from 8:45-9:15 a.m. The field days are from 9:15 a.m.-3 p.m.
The field days are sponsored by CenUSA Bioenergy, a multi-state USDA-sponsored research project, focusing on the use of perennial bioenergy crops in the Midwest. CenUSA partners include: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Iowa State University, Purdue University, United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of Vermont and the University of Wisconsin.
CenUSA is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant 2011-68005-30411 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Beaver Crossing — At the 1-80/Goehner exit (exit 373), go 6.5 miles south on County Road 364, take a left on Yankee Hill Road and go east 0.5 mile. The field site is on the north side of the road.
Dawson — Go 2 miles north of Dawson on Highway 75, turn west on county road 713, and then approximately 0.5 mile. The field site is on the south side of the road.