Prairie Grass Mixes for Ethanol

Cindy Zimmerman

Cellulosic ethanol might be better made from a blend of prairie grasses, rather than just one variety.

That is the finding of research being done at the University of Minnesota, according to researcher Dr. Jason Hill who testified at a Field Hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, held April 3 in Fargo, ND.

Jason HillAccording to the ND Farm and Ranch Guide, Hill testified that their study found that mixtures of 16 native prairie species produced 238 percent more energy on average than a single prairie species such as switchgrass and as an added bonus, the stands made up of the plant mixtures removed large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air and stored it in the soil, but that the single species stands did not.

“The environmental benefits of producing biofuels from diverse prairie biomass are striking,” Hill said in his testimony. “Most amazingly, producing and using ethanol from diverse prairie biomass can actually reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is because a diverse prairie removes more carbon dioxide from the air and stores it in the soil than is released into the air when fossil fuels are burned to farm prairie biomass and convert it into ethanol. This, along with the nitrogen added to the soil by native legumes, actually restores fertility to degraded farmlands, and, a prairie also provides wildlife habitat and reduces soil erosion and pollution of waterways with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.”

More on the research can be found on the University of Minnesota website.

Cellulosic, Ethanol, News