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Agricultural Watershed Institute. Perennial Biomass and Cover Crops in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed . Steve John Agricultural Watershed Institute sfjohn@agwatershed.org GLBW Conference October 16, 2012. The Upper Sangamon River Watershed.

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slide1

Agricultural Watershed Institute

Perennial Biomass and Cover Crops

in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed

Steve John

Agricultural Watershed Institute

sfjohn@agwatershed.org

GLBW Conference

October 16, 2012

slide2

The Upper Sangamon River Watershed

Lake Decatur has sediment and nitrate problems.

The City supports watershed conservation efforts to protect the lake.

slide3

Lake Decatur Watershed

  • 925 square miles
  • 87% row crops
  • Tile drainage
  • Sediment & nutrients addressed by:
    • Dredging
    • IX Treatment
    • Watershed management

Map credit: ISWS

slide4

The Local Bioenergy Initiative

A collaborative project to begin growing and using perennial biomass crops in Central Illinois

slide5

The Local Bioenergy Initiative

  • LBI Vision Statement:
  • Make the Lake Decatur Watershed a national showcase for perennial crops grown for both renewable energy & enhanced water quality.
  • Sustainable Decatur Plan – Year 2020 Indicators:
    • 10,000 acres of perennial energy crops
    • 75,000 tons/year of biomass used or exported
slide6

The Local Bioenergy Initiative

Perennial Biomass Crops

  • Switchgrass
  • Miscanthus
  • Other grasses
  • Prairie polycultures
  • Willows & other SRC trees

Today – heat, electricity, forage

Tomorrow – cellulosic biofuels, animal feed

slide7

Local Bioenergy Initiative

Components of the Initiative:

  • Outreach & assistance to early adopters
  • R & D on landscape design concepts
  • Market development
    • Including ecosystem service markets
slide8

The Local Bioenergy Initiative

Outreach & assistance to early adopters

Some landowners like the “GYOF” idea – Grow your own fuel!

slide9
Doug Gucker planting

“Prairie for Bioenergy” plots, 2011

slide10

Prairie cordgrass

cultivar small plots

in wet area

Prairie for Bioenergy

Single species demonstration plots

future site of awi cat u of i prairie cordgrass research plot

Prairie cordgrass(Spartinapectinata):

  • High yielding warm season native
  • Thrives in wet conditions
  • Starts growing in early spring
  • Promising candidate for nitrate removal.
Future site of AWI—Cat—U of IPrairie cordgrass research plot
slide12

The Local Bioenergy Initiative

  • Develop/demonstrate landscape design concepts:
  • Optimize co-production of biomass & environmental benefits
    • Water Quality
    • Biodiversity
    • Wildlife habitat
    • Recreation

Prairie grass buffer separates an organic field from the adjacent conventionally-farmed field.

slide13

Local Bioenergy Initiative

Promising scenarios for growing energy grasses

  • Eroded, wet, or hard-to-farm land
  • Buffers, waterways, slopes – Biomass + WQ
  • Nature preserves – Biomass + wildlife
  • Converted lawns – Avoid mowing, “GYOF”
slide14

Riparian buffer

Field

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Biomass production in saturated buffers:

Tile flow diverted to soil column under buffer.

Nitrates removed via plant uptake and denitrification.

“Lost” nutrients fertilize a perennial biomass crop.

Drainage discharge pipe

Diverter

box

Adapted from Dan Jaynes, USDA, 2009.

slide15

The Local Bioenergy Initiative

Market development

Markets for biomass

~ and ~

Markets for ecosystem services …

Green Payments

Eastern Illinois University’s Renewable Energy Center burns wood chips during start-up period.

May shift to a grass—wood blend.

slide17

Made in the UK

(But US-Made “bale burners” are now available)

Dr. Ken Staver with hydronic boiler at Wye Research Center (U of MD)

slide18

Local Bioenergy Initiative

Local Bioenergy can draw on lessons from Local Food movement:

  • Re-connect people with food & energy sources
  • Attract and support agricultural producers with a strong stewardship ethic – “Grass farmers”
  • Learn how to produce efficiently at small scale
  • Some consumers pay a premium for local & organic food – Lesson for local bioenergy?
  • “Community Supported Energy” business model
slide19

Community Supported Energy

  • Grow energy grasses
  • Make pellets or briquettes
  • Deliver biomass fuel to participating property owners
  • Collect ash and return nutrients to the soil
slide23

Agricultural Watershed Institute

Challenges for establishment of perennial energy crops:

  • Bridging the price gap – Coal or NG equivalent BTU price not sufficient to justify production and CHST of biomass for thermal energy
      • High opportunity cost of good cropland
      • Production cost lower on marginal land
      • Green payments may make up the difference
      • Biomass appears to be competitive with propane or fuel oil without green payments
slide24

The Local Bioenergy Initiative

Potential green payments for perennial energy crops:

  • Carbon Credits or Renewable Energy Credits
    • May become a significant driver … but when?
  • Local sources of green payments:
    • Source water protection (e.g. Lake Decatur)
    • Conservation easements – Hunting leases
    • “Wildlife and Water Quality” fund donations
  • BCAP & USDA programs for working lands
  • Modify CRP to permit more harvesting
slide25

Local Bioenergy Initiative

Final thoughts …

Biomass crops can be used for thermal energy or forage without waiting for large biorefineries.

Hay producers can be pioneers to grow warm season grasses for forage + biomass + clean water.

Small U.S. manufacturers are finding a niche in the emerging Green Energy industry.

Stakeholder-led projects can be laboratories for R&D on biomass—conservation synergies.

slide26

Funding for the Local Bioenergy Initiative

  • is provided by …
  • The City of Decatur
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Partners include …
  • Agricultural Watershed Institute
  • Producers & biomass entrepreneurs
  • Caterpillar
  • ADM
  • University of Illinois Extension & researchers
  • Eastern Illinois University
  • County SWCDs