Forage production for biomass energy to be showcased at workshop

September 19, 2013  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Growing plants for fuel in Indiana will be the focus of an Oct. 15 Purdue Extension workshop targeted to those interested in biomass energy production.

Biomass energy is the use of organic materials, such as grasses, grains, crop residues or livestock waste that can be converted to a source of fuel. The daylong workshop will focus on grasses that can be grown on land that isn't well suited for row-crop production.

"Indiana is a place where about 15 percent of the arable soil is considered marginal for corn and soybean production," said Chad Martin, Purdue Extension renewable energy specialist. "These less productive soils can be used for bioenergy grass production."

Land could be considered marginal for many reasons, such as problems with water-holding capacity, depth of soil or soil composition - any of which means less yield and profit for farmers growing crops like corn or soybean.

The workshop will be split into two sessions.

The morning program will give participants an opportunity to see engines that run on alternative fuels at Caterpillar Inc., 3701 State Route 26 E., Lafayette. The session will include presentations by energy professionals and a facilities tour.

To register for the morning session, contact Martin at martin95@purdue.edu by Oct. 7.

The afternoon session will focus specifically on plants that can be grown for biomass energy production. It will run 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the Throckmorton-Purdue Agricultural Center, 8343 U.S. 231, Lafayette.

Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension forage specialist who is heading up the afternoon session, said forage grasses tend to come closer to optimum production on marginal land as compared to corn or soybean. They 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."

Register in advance for the afternoon session by contacting Lisa Green at lgreen06@purdue.edu or 765-494-4783.

Johnson and Martin are part of a multistate working group called cenUSA Bioenergy that is researching ways to create a sustainable biofuels system for the central United States. Purdue University is one of the eight institutions involved in the effort, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More information can be found at http://www.cenusa.iastate.edu/.

CenUSA, Caterpillar Inc. and Purdue Extension are sponsoring the workshop. Research is supported by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Writer: Amanda Gee, 765-494-8402, agee@purdue.edu

Sources: Chad Martin, 765-496-3964, martin95@purdue.edu

Keith Johnson, 765-494-4800, johnsonk@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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