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
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
email@example.com by Oct. 7.
The afternoon session will focus specifically on plants that
can be grown for biomass energy production. It will run 1:30 to 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,” Johnson
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (765) 494-4783.
Johnson and Martin are part of a multi-state working group
called cenUSA Bioenergy that is researching ways to create a sustainable
biofuels system for the central U.S. 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 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.