Researchers at Iowa State University will take the next five years to examine whether a single, coordinated production system can address the three largest issues to face agriculture in this century. The food-versus-fuel debate, water and nutrient runoff, and soil erosion. The question is: can all of these concerns be addressed while making profits for producers? A 25-million dollar grant from USDA will support this research.
When the research is completed, scientists will develop the blueprint for using marginal farmlands to grow perennial grasses that will, in turn, provide a biomass source for a drop-in biofuel. Growing perennial grasses on marginal Midwest cropland has many environmental advantages, including reducing soil and nutrient runoff, slowing soil erosion and increasing carbon sequestration.
Growing those grasses currently has few benefits for the farmers who own the land and make the production decisions. Convincing farmers to take land out of corn production when prices hover near 7-dollars per bushel will require developing a market for that perennial grass that gives producers a solid return. These marginal lands in question are primarily riparian lands near waterways.
NAFB News Service