Production Summary from WICST and the Biofuels Trial

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set a target of 36 billion gallons of biofuel to be produced annually within the USA by 2022. Of the total 36 billion gallons, 16 billion is to come from cellulosic ethanol and 5 billion gallons from biomass-based diesel and other “advanced biofuels” (from feedstocks other than corn starch). As a significant proportion of our fuel demand is mandated to come from renewable energy in the next decade, research was needed to resolve currently limiting factors in biofuel production. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $125 million to the UW College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to create the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) based at UW-Madison to overcome bottlenecks in commercial production of cellulosic ethanol. The funding was distributed amongst 6 research themes or thrusts. Thrust 4, “Development of a Sustainable Biofuel Ecnonomy”, is focused largely on the economic and environmental sustainability of biomass production and is discussed in this report. Two locations were chosen for field trials to evaluate ten model bio-energy productions systems (grain-based, perennial, woody, native grassland, and integrated perennial/annual crop): the Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station located in Hickory Corners, MI (KBS at MSU, 42°24′17″N, 85°24′00″ W) and the UW’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station located in Arlington, WI (AARS, 43°18′09″N, 89°20′46″W). A summary of the newly established cropping systems can be seen in Fig. 1 and Table 1. This new trial at AARS was merged with some of the same existing systems from the WICST plots established 10 years ago in the case of the native plots and 20 years ago for the crop plots (Fig. 2). These sites will be used to estimate the production potential of biofuel cropping systems, monitor microbial, biogeochemical, and biodiversity indices, evaluate the economic viability of each system, and produce data for regional climate modeling analyses (as described in projects 2-6 of Thrust 4 of the GLBRC).

Authors: Gregg Sanford, Janet Hedtcke, Joshua Posner, and Randy Jackson