Giant miscanthus will be grown and processed into renewable energy in four new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project areas announced last week by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Acreage in Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania will be designated to grow the high-yielding, sterile-hybrid warm-season grass.

Vilsack said the projects will "create nearly 4,000 jobs, demonstrating the great economic potential the production of renewable energy holds for our rural communities."

Yields for biomass from giant miscanthus are expected to range between 10 and 12 tons of dry matter per acre and can be as high as 15 tons per acre. BCAP project areas provide financial incentives to eligible producers to establish dedicated energy crops that will be used for production of heat, power, liquid biofuels or bio-based products. A project area must have specific boundaries that are approved by the secretary of agriculture.

Earlier this year, USDA announced BCAP Project Area 1 that comprised up to 50,000 acres for establishing a dedicated energy crop of native grasses and forbs for energy purposes in 39 counties in central and western Missouri and eastern Kansas. The project areas announced last week are areas 2 through 5.

Project Area 2 is in Arkansas and targets 2011 enrollment of 5,588 acres in Clay, Craighead, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, Mississippi, Poinsett and Randolph counties. The sponsor for this project is MFA Oil Biomass and the project area surrounds the co-op's biomass conversion facility in Paragould, AR.

Project Area 3 is in Missouri and targets 2011 enrollment of 3,000 acres in Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Monroe and Randolph counties. The sponsor is MFA Oil Biomass and the project area surrounds the co-op's biomass conversion facility in Columbia, MO.

Project Area 4 is also in Missouri and targets 2011 enrollment of 5,250 acres in Barry, Christian, Dade, Jasper, Lawrence, Newton and Stone counties. MFA Oil Biomass is the sponsor and the biomass conversion facility is in Aurora, MO.

Project Area 5 is in parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania and targets 2011 enrollment of 5,344 acres in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties in Ohio, and Crawford, Erie and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania. The sponsor is Aloterra Energy and the project area surrounds the company's biomass conversion facility in Ashtabula, OH.