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Landscape biomass farm tour set Aug. 5

By Staff | Jul 23, 2011

LUTHER As the nation moves toward a future of renewable energy, Midwest farmers are turning their attention to biofuel.

In Iowa, researchers are helping to shape that future by developing a portfolio of sustainable systems for growing biofuel feedstock. This team will hold a public field day about their work starting at 10 a.m., on Aug. 5, at the Uthe Farm, southeast of Luther.?The research and demonstration project, “Developing a Portfolio of Sustainable Bioenergy Feedstock Production Systems for the U.S. Midwest,” is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Iowa Statue University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, with additional in-kind support from the Committee for Agricultural Development, the U.S. Forest Service and ArborGen. ?The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act ensures that cellulosic materials will provide a significant portion of the nation’s future energy portfolio. This year, two companies announced plans to build plants in Iowa for refining cellulosic biofuel – a DuPont Danisco plant in Nevada and POET’s PROJECT LIBERTY plant in Emmetsburg.

This “second generation” biofuel is produced from perennial crops like switchgrass, residue from harvesting and other sources, and offers a better energy balance than corn-based ethanol.?To test alternative systems for growing cellulosic feedstock, ISU researchers designed a series of experimental plots at the Uthe Farm in central Iowa. In fall 2008 and spring 2009, they planted five different cropping systems with various rotations of corn, soy, sorghum, switchgrass, trees and triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, at five different positions in the landscape, from the summit of a hill to its base.

They plan to compare these alternative cropping systems with a conventional corn system over the next 10 years. ?The researchers monitor factors like fertilizer inputs, biomass outputs, water quality effects, carbon and nitrogen cycles and greenhouse gas emissions.

Their goal is to develop and demonstrate a variety of sustainable systems with the potential to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil, provide environmental and economic benefits and remain compatible with Midwest farming practices.

They hope to provide policymakers, farmers and the public with the ability to make informed decisions about biofuel production. ?The field day features presentations from project team members. Conservationists and land managers will learn about the challenges and advantages of diverse, site-appropriate biomass cropping systems.

The event is free. For details, download the event flyer at www.leopold.iastate.edu/news/events/072211_farmtour_flier.pdf.

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