The NEWBio project focuses on three primary perennial crops for biomass feedstock: switchgrass, giant miscanthus, and willow. Why are we looking at these species? They all:
- Provide feedstock for heat, electricity, or liquid fuels
- Are fast growing and high yielding in short periods of time
- Help reduce carbon emissions compared to other crops
- Grow well on marginal land, such as wet soils, so they do not compete with other food crops
- Tolerate cold and drought conditions
- Provide numerous environmental and wildlife benefits
- Have attractive rates of return compared to other uses of marginal land
Millions of acres of idle and marginal lands in the Northeast are conducive for growing these energy crops. As the market for bioenergy products develops, these energy crops will provide an important source of material for heat, electricity, or liquid fuels. An average acre of these crops will produce about 300-400 gallons of cellulosic ethanol, or the equivalent of 70-100 million BTUs (British thermal units) of energy. Although these crops have different cash flow profiles and management considerations, they all can provide viable economic returns.
|Growing cycle||Harvested annually for 20 years||Harvested annually for 20 years||Harvested every 3 years for 7 cycles|
|Plants per acre||About 8 pounds of seed||About 6,000 rhizomes||About 6,000 cuttings|
|Establishment cost||About $500/acre||About $1,500/acre||About $1,000/acre|
|Yields per acre||4-6 dry tons/year||8-12 dry tons/year||4-6 dry tons/year|
|Fertilizer||Needed for maintenance applications||Not needed||May be useful every few cycles|
|Herbicide use||At establishment phase||At establishment phase||At establishment phase|
|Pests/diseases||Few known||Unknown||Some knoen|
|Harvest method||Conventional hay equipment||Conventional hay equipment||Specialized forage header equipment|
|Harvest timing||Generally in late winter/early spring||Generally in late winter/early spring||Generally in winter, can b year-round|
|Invasiveness||Some cultivars are not invasive||Noninvasive||Most cultivars are not invasive|
|Feedstock properties||High BTUs, low water content, low ash content||High BTUs, low water content, low ash content||Very high BTUs, very low ash content|
"NEWBio" is the Northeast Woody/Warm-season Bioenergy Consortium, a regional project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to promote next-generation bioenergy production in the northeastern United States. For more information visit the NEWBio website and Penn State Extension's website.
Prepared by Mike Jacobson, professor of forest resources, Penn State; David Marrison, extension educator and assistant professor, Ohio State; Zane Helsel, extension specialist, Rutgers University; Dennis Rak, owner, Double A Willow; and Barry Forgeng and Nichole Heil, interns, Penn State.