Secure America's Energy Future through Renewable Biofuels
Research to Create Sustainable Energy through Agriculture
Effects of Biochar & Nutrient Applications on Swithcgrass Biomass & Greenhouse Gas
Dr. Dafeng Hui
One major challenge we are facing today is the need to increase energy production while simultaneously reducing our impact on the atmosphere. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) has been considered one of the most promising energy crops for a wide range of sites in the U.S.A. Although switchgrass tolerates low soil fertility, optimizing biomass production and maintaining quality stands requires nitrogen (N) fertilizer inputs and proper management. N fertilizer use usually also increases GHG emissions particularly N2O emission. Chicken manure is an organic N source, which has been often considered as one alternative N fertilizer to reduce emissions of N2O due to a relative low rate of available N release from manure). However, the consequences of manure amendment for switchgrass production and N2O emission remain controversial. Biochar is biomass-derived char that intended specifically for application to soil. Application of biochar to soil has been found to enhance soil function, increase crop productivity, and reduce GHG emissions, which in turn can reduce fertilizer needs. Despite a long history of application of switchgrass biochar to agricultural soils, surprisingly little is known about how biochar will interact with N fertilizer to influence switchgrass growth and greenhouse gas emission. This project will establish a field experiment to study the interactive effects of biochar and nitrogen applications on switchgrass at TSU, and provide hands-on research experience to minority students at TSU. If successful, this project will train under-represented minority students and provide a highly skilled, dedicated work force.
Economic Assessment of Short Rotation Woody Biomass for Bioenergy
Dr. Prabodh Illukpitiya
This project will create an approach for cellulosic feedstock development, production, and delivery, leading to sustainable production of biomass for conversion to transportation fuels, bio-power, and bio-based materials. The goal of this project is to carry the current state of research forward to determine the technical, economic, social and environmental feasibility and benefits of utilizing short rotation woody biomass as a feedstock in the production of biofuels in the rural Southeastern region. The project will focus on short rotation woody crops of Paulownia and Sweet gum. To assess the potential of this feedstock as a lignocellulosic feedstock for advance biofuel production and electricity generation, the specific objectives of the research are to: a) document the growth performance, environmental conditions, and agronomy practices for Paulowia and Sweetgum, b) assess the economic benefits and cost of short rotation woody biomass crops for bioenergy production c) determine the factors that inhibit adaptation of short rotation woody biomass and d) determine environmental spillover of woody biomass via analysis of carbon stock and net energy balance. The proposed project activities will address all three area of the agricultural knowledge system: research, education and extension. Collectively, these activities comprise a regional approach to the creation of a sustainable biomass feedstock development, production and delivery system in the Southeastern United States. This project will support USDA-NIFA mission to facilitate energy security, economic, environmental and rural community sustainability.