New scientific reports shed light on potential benefits of renewable grass-based bioenergy in Wisconsin.

Two new reports by researchers in Wisconsin and Michigan illustrate how production of perennial non-forest biomass? can result in net economic and environmental benefits in Wisconsin. The reports, funded by the Environmental and Economic Research and Development Program of the state-wide energy utilities’ investor-funded Focus on Energy Program, provide evidence of the multiple advantages of perennial grass-based cropping systems. These benefits, the researchers find, extend from the level of individual farms to landscapes and entire communities of people and wildlife. The Wisconsin research team, based at University of Wisconsin – Green Bay and led by Matthew Dornbush, Professor of Biology, found grass-based biomass production was profitable and competitive with row crops on agriculturally marginal soils in the Lower Fox River Basin. They also found grass-dominated biomass production reduced phosphorus loading and soil erosion which are essential for much needed water quality improvement in the Lower Fox River Basin – an Area of Concern designated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. EPA as critically impaired. The Michigan research team, based at Michigan Technological University and led by Christopher Webster, Professor of Forestry and Environmental Science, recommends future biomass plantings include mixes of native plant species and different plant functional groups. This type of planned diversification of biomass plantings, the Michigan team finds, results in multiple benefits such as reduced invasions by undesirable plant species, decreased rates of plants disease, increased likelihood of sustainable high yields, and increased habitat for grassland birds and beneficial insects such as pollinators. Together, these two recent reports point to promising future scenarios where Wisconsin’s agricultural sector provides not only production value but also provides crucial improvement in environmental and ecological resources within the state and beyond.

For more information see:

Dornbush, M., et al. (2012). Maximizing ecological services and economic returns by targeted establishment of biomass grasslands? for electricity and heat generation in Wisconsin. Final Report. Environmental and economic research and development program, Focus on Energy, Madison, WI.
Link to Executive Summary
Link to full report

Webster, C., et al. (2011). Identifying trade-offs? between biomass production and biological diversity in Wisconsin’s forests and grasslands to meet tomorrows bioenergy? and biofuel? needs. Final Report. Environmental and economic research and development program, Focus on Energy, Madison, WI.
Link to Executive Summary
Link to full report

Focus on Energy

Wed, 05/09/2012
Anerobic Digestion and Biogas

UW Extension have created seven modules focused on the use of anaerobic digestion technologies. Details of the process are introduced, as well as factors that influence start-up, operation and control of anaerobic digesters at different scales.

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Carol Williams
(608) 890-3858 (office)
(515) 520-7494 (mobile)
Department of Agronomy
1575 Linden Dr.
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706

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Use of contour buffer strips in commodity crop systems in southwestern Wisconsin helps reduce soil loss and traps nutrients on slopes. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.