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Energy Crops

Many different types of grass and woody crops are currently being grown for energy and fuel production.  The following crops are currently being produced in New York State for bioenergy purposes.

Perennial Grass

Both warm and cool season perennial grass is being produced in NYS.  Warm season perennials, such as switchgrass, provide ample biomass with low input.  They are able to be grown on marginal land and only require one cut per year with the same equipment used for harvesting alfalfa and grass for hay.  However, there is currently a lack of suitable varieties adapted to the unique climate of the Northeast.  The warm season grasses also require three years to become fully established, but have a long stand life of up to twenty years.  Cool season grasses, while requiring more input, have the added benefit of a shorter establishment period and are a suitable forage.  Farmers in New York are also more familiar with the management of cool season grasses.


Shrub willow provides renewable woody biomass, excellent for combustion. The shrubs are harvested once every three years and require minimal input.  Thanks to researchers at SUNY-ESF and Cornell, New York has the knowledge and resources available for willow production.  Find out more about the willow industry in New York at SUNY-ESF's website or Willowpedia host by CALS.


Sorghum, an annual cereal crop, provides both biomass and a sugary syrup for bioenergy production.  Native to tropical and subtropical regions, researchers at Cornell University are investigating sorghum as a bioenergy crop in New York.


The large amount of sugar in the corn kernel allows relatively easy fermentation into ethanol.  The conversion process yields valuable by-products, such as distiller's grain, that makes the process viable.  Corn stover is also used for cellulosic conversion.