Biomass production needs to be performed in a sustainable manner. Collecting agricultural
residues (corn cobs and wheat straw) could cause problems with increased erosion or reducing
soil carbon levels. Our goal is to develop a system that will not increase erosion or decrease
soil carbon. This can be accomplished using a number of tools (ArcSWAT, AnnAGNPS, and DAYCENT)
that will allow for the evaluation of different feedstocks.
Some of these tools have been developed and need to be adapted to biomass production. Land use change is a major factor; tools have been developed by Dr. Muellers group that will help evaluate biomass production.
A number of opportunities exist for producing energy crops on marginal land. It is very difficult to convince grain farmers to produce energy crops. However, every farm has fields and areas that are not very good for grain production that could be used for biomass production. Some of these areas are in northeastern Kentucky, where Dr. Smith has an active switchgrass production demonstration with the Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council; waterways that are eroded with poor production potential have been documented by Dr. Mueller.