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CALS Bioenergy Feedstock Project

With generous funding from Cornell University, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI), the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP), and other public and private institutions, the project has been able to successfully collaborate with government organizations, universities, and producers.

The CALS Bioenergy Feedstock Project is currently conducting research on:

  • The Accelerated Evaluation of Perennial Grass and Legume Feedstocks for Biofuel Production in New York State
  • Herbicide Use for Warm Season Perennial Grasses
  • Herbaceous Bioenergy Crop Field Trials
  • U.S. Native Grass Breeding Consortium to Identify Regional Optimum Biomass Productivity on Marginal Land
  • Breeding Warm Season Perennial Grasses Adapted to the Northeast for Biofuel Feedstock

The Accelerated Evaluation of Perennial Grass and Legume Feedstocks for Biofuel Production in New York State

Funded by New York Farm Viability Institute, Inc.
The Cornell University Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics Forage Project is conducting field research on a variety of perennial grasses to establish recommendations for planting, harvesting, herbicide use and management of biomass crops to increase profitability for New York State agricultural producers. Plant pathologists, biologists, agricultural economists and seed specialists are collaborating their efforts to ensure a supply of biomass for emerging renewable energy industries. This research is being conducted through field trials at Cornell University and on producer's farms throughout New York State.

The yield per acre, germination rates, diseases, weeds, pests, fertilizer requirements and soil conditions are a selection of the issues under continual study. This site will provide the latest findings for New York State.

Collaborators

Cornell Cooperative Extension   Producers
Aaron Gabriel Washington County CCE Greenwich School
Carl Albers Steuben County CCE Leo Dickson
Leslie Hulcoop Dutchess County CCE  
Bruce Tillapaugh Genesee County CCE Steve Rigoni
Jeff Miller  Oneida County CCE Bill Von Matt
Pete Barney St. Lawrence County CCE Tom Lee

Herbicide Research

Funded by New York Farm Viability Institute, Inc.
At this time, there are no herbicides labeled for use on warm season perennial grasses in New York State. Weed competition during the seeding year is a significant barrier to successful crop establishment. Field sites have previously been completely choked out by weeds in the first year.

Research is being conducted to determine the most cost effective herbicides that can be used safely. Field trials are being conducted on a variety of grasses by Cornell University to establish herbicide recommendations for agricultural producers growing biomass feedstock. The grasses appear to be able to crowd out competitive plants after the second year of planting.

Collaborators

Herbaceous Bioenergy Crop Field Trials

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Regional Biomass Feedstock Partnership
The objective of this research is to establish and perform replicated field trials of switchgrass to gather biomass production and sustainability data that documents biomass yield at different regional locations for assessing potential expansion of switchgrass as a bioenergy feedstock resource.

Collaborators

  • Dr. Vance Owens, Lead Principle Investigator, Assist. Professor, South Dakota State University – Brookings, SD
  • Dr. Rodney Farris, Principle Investigator, Oklahoma State University – Bixby, OK
  • Dr. John Fike, Principle Investigator, Assoc. Professor in Crop and Soil Environmental Science, Virginia Technical University - Blacksburg, VA
  • Dr. Dave Parrish, Principle Investigator, Professor in Crop and Soil Environmental Science, Virginia Technical University – Blacksburg, VA
  • Dr. Dave Bransby, Principle Investigator, Professor Agronomy and Soils, Auburn University – Auburn, A

U.S. Native Grass Breeding Consortium to Identify Regional Optimum Biomass Productivity on Marginal Land

Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy Rural Development Biomass Research and Development
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005) issued a mandate for the use of up to 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel in gasoline by 2012. This amount will likely increase in the future as we shift our energy demands away from foreign oil supplies. One concern is whether sufficient amounts of biomass can be supplied without impacting the cost of agricultural land, competing with food production and harming the environment. The national strategy is to produce bioenergy crops on marginal cropland where there will be no competition with food production. The USDA-ARS Panel Assessment of ‘Bioenergy and Energy Alternatives’ National Program 307, met this past August and concluded that for perennial grasses ‘focus should be on switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), and other region-specific perennial grasses. Energy crops research should focus on crops suitable for less costly lands, pasture lands or marginal soils’. Although perennial grasses such as switchgrass are expected to be used as a biofuel crop on marginal land there has been little to no extensive research to evaluate their performance on marginal land. Therefore, it is unknown how perennial grasses will perform on marginal land. This knowledge is critical to the successful development of biofuels so that enough biomass can be generated domestically to offset foreign oil dependency.

Collaborators

Breeding Warm Season Perennial Grasses Adapted to the Northeast for Biofuel Feedstock

The goal of this project is to initiate a warm season perennial grass breeding program at Cornell University to improve biofuel production. Plant collections for the breeding program and initial screening nurseries will be conducted in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA/NRCS) Plant Materials Center (PMC), Big Flats, New York (NY). The proposed genetic pools for the breeding program are public cultivars of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman), genetically diverse germplasm and collections of warm season grasses from the Northeast (NE), and southern germplasm with potential for winter survival.