Field Crops for Energy

Demands for sustainable, renewable energy sources will likely require the development of new cropping systems.
Field Crops for Energy - Articles


Sudangrass from 2009 Demo Site (D Ciolkosz)

Penn State's Programs in Bioenergy Crops Education and Outreach

Penn State's Energy Crops Extension Specialists and educators are rapidly expanding their focus in cropping systems research and demonstrations to develop strategies for development of new cropping systems that not only meet our needs for food, feed and fiber, but now also fuel.

  • Evaluations of new crops that can improve crop productivity or produce value added co-products for the states livestock industry are examples of some of the strategies that are possible.
  • Developing cropping systems for marginal lands also have potential to improve our feedstock production with minimal impact on food and feed production and the environment.

Field Crops of Interest Include:

  • Switchgrass
  • Miscanthus
  • Canola
  • Sugarbeets
  • Sunflowers
  • Soybeans
  • Corn
  • Sorghum

Alternative Crop Assessment and Demonstration

Penn State Extension specialists and educators are actively involved in the assessment of new alternative crops for biofuels such as canola, barley, camelina, switchgrass, miscanthus, sugar and fodder beets.

These demonstrations are used to introduce the crops to crop producers and agronomists, helping them to understand:

  • the production potential, management issues and the potential production economics of each of these potential alternatives.
  • the potential of these co-products to provide valuable feedstuffs is another essential component of the alternative crop assessment and demonstration program.

They also provide:

  • opportunities to develop production data that is useful for policy makers and potential investors to assess the potential of these crops in our region.
  • a foundation for educational programs for Extension specialists and educators to discuss the potential of these crops for widespread cultivation.
  • an opportunity to help develop more sustainable methods of feedstock production using cover crops, no-tillage production methods and reduced fertilizer and pesticide inputs that can help to improve soil quality and reduce runoff of fertilizers and pesticides.

Working with researchers at Penn State and other organizations such as USDA-ARS, Penn State's Energy Crops Extension Specialists help to address the complex issues of carbon balance, net energy and life cycle analysis for these various cropping systems and then share these results with the crop producers and their advisers.