Extension News

ISU Research Farm will host biomass plot tours


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms will host field days for biomass plot tours the day before and the day after the 2008 Farm Progress Show.


Tours will be held Monday, Aug. 25, from 1 to 4 p.m. and Friday, Aug. 29, from 9 a.m. to noon. The tours will begin at the Ag Engineering and Agronomy research farm headquarters, located 1½ miles east of the Farm Progress Show site near Boone, Iowa.


“This is the opportunity to see ISU’s research on growing and harvesting of biomass and its effects on soil and water,” said Mark Honeyman, coordinator of Iowa State Research Farms. These are the only field days of these plots this year.


The tours are open to the public and groups are welcome. The cost is $5 per person, which covers the charter bus transportation. Attendees should meet at the ISU Ag Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm at 1308 U Ave., Boone, located just off Highway 30, west of Ames. The field day will take place rain or shine.


The tour will include six stops that display Iowa State’s work and research in the area of biomass. The planned stops will cover topics including growing herbaceous and woody biomass crops, using biochar as a soil amendment, effects of growing biomass on soil and water, and harvesting equipment for bioenergy crop residue. The tour also will stop at the future site of ISU’s New Century Farm, an integrated research facility for biomass.


“The purpose of this research is not to replace corn and soybeans, but to make things better by planting some of these alternative biomass crops,” said Honeyman. “Some of these crops may be better suited for planting in a flood plain or near a stream.”


At one stop, people will see how bioenergy crops, such as switchgrass and miscanthus, are grown. ISU agronomy graduate students Andy Heggenstaller and Ben Goff will talk about how these herbaceous crops can be grown effectively as a bioenergy source.


Randy Killorn, professor of soil fertility, is working with biochar; a product leftover after processing biomass for energy. Part of his research shows biochar being put back into the soil with positive results in improving soil quality.


Rick Hall and Lisa Schulte, of the natural resource ecology and management department, will discuss the use of woody crops for biomass. This stop will show how woody crops such as poplar and other fast-growing trees can be grown, ground into wood chips, and used for energy production.


Another stop will be at an experimental site where the effects of biomass crops on soil and water have been measured. Researchers Matt Helmers, agricultural and biosystems engineering, and Antonio Mallarino, agronomy, have collected data on the effects of growing corn and soybeans on agriculture drainage. On the same plot, they are now measuring the effects of growing switchgrass and other biomass crops.


A fifth stop will showcase bioenergy crop residue harvesting equipment, developed by Stuart Birrell of agricultural and biosystems engineering. This is a combine that has been fitted to collect crop residue, corncobs and husks, at the same time the grain is harvested.


In the last stop, Joe Colletti, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will talk about plans for ISU’s New Century Farm, the first integrated, sustainable biofuel feedstock production farm and processing facility in the U.S.


For more information on the plot tours contact Sally Medford at the ISU Research and Demonstration Farms office at (515) 294-5045. Pre-registration is not required.


Contacts :


Mark Honeyman, Research and Demonstration Farms, (515) 294-5045, honeyman@iastate.edu


Ed Adcock, Communications Specialist, (515) 294-2314, edadcock@iastate.edu


Jennifer Scharpe, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-1039, jscharpe@iastate.edu


One high-resolution photo is available for use with this story. HelmersFieldDay.jpg [400 Kb]


Suggested caption:  Matt Helmers, left, agricultural and biosystems engineering professor, will talk about his research to monitor water quantities and take samples to measure water quality using equipment installed in the soil at the field days before and after the Farm Progress Show.