Bioenergy Potential of Native Prairie Grasses Assessed

University of Minnesota researchers conducted a 10-year study on growing alternative biofuels and published the results in Nature Sustainability. The study compared biomass production of a combination of 32 native perennial plants when the plots were treated with added water and added nitrogen. Researchers found that moderate treatments (irrigation and 7 g/m2 of nitrogen) had the best biomass yields and soil carbon storage, while having negligible effects on the plot’s stability, diversity, and nutrient loss to groundwater. The research also revealed that biomass yield from the best-performing native prairie grasses was two tons per hectare lower than the average of corn produced for ethanol. However, because of lower nitrogen use and larger amounts of soil carbon storage than corn production, utilizing native-prairie plantings for bioenergy would result in higher overall greenhouse-gas savings.