Growers interested in growing grasses for biofuel production may want to consider native, warm-season perennials. That’s what Keith Johnson will talk about Oct. 15 at a Purdue Extension workshop on growing plants for fuel in Indiana.
Forage grasses tend to come closer to optimum production on marginal land than corn or soybeans, says Johnson, Purdue Extension forage specialist. Grasses reduce soil erosion and water runoff, improve soil quality, provide a natural habitat for wildlife and yield high amounts of biomass.
"The grasses we're focusing on are big bluestem, Indiangrass and switchgrass, which are all native, warm-season perennial grasses," he said. "Non-native grasses that a core group of researchers are looking at include miscanthus and sorghum."
The daylong workshop will focus on grasses that can be grown on land not suited for row-crop production, says Chad Martin, Purdue Extension renewable energy specialist. "Indiana is a place where about 15% of the arable soil is considered marginal for corn and soybean production. These less-productive soils can be used for bioenergy grass production."
The workshop’s morning program will give participants an opportunity to examine engines running on alternative fuels at Caterpillar Inc., in Lafayette. The session will include presentations by energy professionals and a facilities tour.
The afternoon session will focus on plants grown for biomass energy production, to be held at the Throckmorton-Purdue Agricultural Center in Lafayette.
Johnson and Martin are part of a multistate working group, cenUSA Bioenergy, which is researching ways to create a sustainable biofuels system for the central United States. CenUSA, Caterpillar Inc. and Purdue Extension are sponsoring the workshop.