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Monday, March 2, 2009

UW-Green Bay will study grass production on marginal farm land

From a news release issued by the University of Wiscosnin-Green Bay:

GREEN BAY - A grant from Wisconsin Focus on Energy will allow researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Environmental Management and Business Institute the opportunity to evaluate the economic and environmental outcomes of converting marginal agricultural areas into biomass-yielding grasslands for electricity and heat generation in the state.

Starting in July, UW-Green Bay students and professors will use the $164,853 grant to study the multiple benefits of converting non-ideal farmland into sustainable grassland areas that can be used to produce bio-fuels for energy and heat production.

Planting agricultural crops in poorly drained or marginal soil areas may be delayed, prevented or unprofitable for traditional farming. However, these areas may be ideally suited for native, mixed-species grasslands that can withstand harsher conditions, yet still be harvested for bio-fuel production, researchers say.

Targeted plantings of these grasslands between agricultural fields and aquatic systems could also reduce nutrient and sediment runoff into watersheds, thus limiting pollution and improving the health of the state’s valuable water resources.

“Future energy demands will only be met with diverse and environmentally sustainable energy sources,” said Prof. Matt Dornbush, Natural and Applied Sciences. “This project seeks to answer if it is economically and environmentally feasible to use biomass-based energy produced through the growth of native grasslands to help fill those needs.

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