U of Missouri Research Finds That Bioenergy Crops Can Renew Soil In Unproductive Fields

Researchers from the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources have discovered a new crop connection that can help revive areas of fields that have lost productivity. According to Newell Kitchen, a Plan Sciences Specialist at U of Missouri CAFNR, bioenergy crops such as switchgrass and miscanthus can help soil, improve water quality and provide alternative revenue. In recent research, Kitchen found that even when there is a lack of topsoil, it is possible to grow a healthy switchgrass crop that will produce five to seven tons per acre per year. By storing carbon below ground, these crops improve the soil nutrient content and structure for the next season, which makes a more bountiful harvest likely for next year. Additionally, biomass plants can be a profitable crop when used to provide energy, whether that is being co-fired with coal in a power plant or, potentially, being processed into liquid fuels. “That could provide a flow of income for farmers that would diversify their enterprise and make these marginal soils more productive,” said Kitchen.

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