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Karlen solutions to new challenges

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Karlen solutions to new challenges

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69th SWCS International Annual Conference
“Making Waves in Conservation: Our Life on Land and Its Impact on Water”
July 27-30, 2014
Lombard, IL

69th SWCS International Annual Conference
“Making Waves in Conservation: Our Life on Land and Its Impact on Water”
July 27-30, 2014
Lombard, IL

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Karlen solutions to new challenges

  1. 1. Midwestern Management of Biomass for Energy, Soil and Water Conservation and Soil Health Douglas L. Karlen, Larry Beeler, and Bruce E. Dale USDA-ARS, USDA-NRCS, and Michigan State University Presented at the 15th SWCS/SSSA Joint Symposium SWCS Annual Meeting – Lombard, Illinois July 29, 2014
  2. 2.  Midwest biomass: the past, present and future  Lessons learned regarding sustainable corn stover harvest  NRCS guidelines and programs available to biomass suppliers  Critical soil and water research needed for sustainable biomass supplies Presentation Overview
  3. 3. Biomass is Not a New Midwestern Commodity Native Americans Managed Prairie for Bison Grazing From H.F. Reetz
  4. 4. Midwest Landscape -- 2014
  5. 5.  Corn and soybean are dominant crops because of soil resources, climate and infra-structure  Production of these crops has been successful but ecosystem services have been disrupted  Growing demand for biomass for biofuel and/or bio-products creates opportunities to optimize cropping systems  Integrating food, feed and fuel production could improve productivity and ecosystem services The Midwest – Current Status Midwest Regional Roadmap www.swcs.org/roadmap)
  6. 6. Renewable energy is essential for human well-being  The rate of energy use (rate of doing work) strongly affects, even determines, national wealth and opportunities for human development  All rich societies use a lot of energy (~33% oil)  “Energy efficiency” is essential but insufficient in itself  Fossil energy use makes us rich today—what energy sources will make our children rich? Answer: fossil energy cannot, it will be gone in the next few decades….
  7. 7. Why renewable energy is crucial  Without it, how will the billions of poor people in the world ever access enough fossil energy to develop their potential? Answer: they cannot, it will be gone in the next few decades…  Globally, we must have renewable energy — lots of it in the next few decades  Why? Because of all forms of energy, liquid fuels are the most valuable and most problematic in terms of supply, price and price volatility
  8. 8. Why renewable energy is crucial  Although controversial, peak oil quite likely has already arrived  Only large scale, low cost, low carbon energy sources can reduce GHGs, provide energy security and long term wealth  Biofuels (liquid fuels from plant material) are not optional — we must have them — but they must also become much more sustainable
  9. 9.  Corn stover  Miscanthus/Switchgrass  Oilseeds Woody species Midwest Biomass Resources Midwest Regional Roadmap (www.swcs.org/roadmap) Canola, Pennycress Camelina
  10. 10. US-EPA and others identified corn stover as the most economical feedstock because of:  The extensive area on which corn is grown (planted on an average of 97,272,000 acres in 2011 – 2013)  The relatively high crop productivity (an average of 11.9 billion bushels of grain for those years)  Potential average stover production of 282 million tons per year based on a 0.5 harvest index  The potential to reduce crop residue management costs by harvesting a portion of the stover
  11. 11. BUT – stover is also important for soil health! 2013 winter erosion in Story County, Iowa 2013 corn production site in Green County, Wisconsin
  12. 12. Excessive Stover Harvest Can Result in: Compaction & crusting Degraded structure & aggregation Water & wind erosion Reduced plant growth Impaired soil biology Decreased yield Reduced Soil Productivity
  13. 13. REAP/Regional Partnership Sites
  14. 14. Compiled 239 site-years of stover harvest data Effects on subsequent grain and stover yields Effects on soil organic carbon (C) & aggregation Effects on microbial community Effects on GHG emissions Summarized in: BioEnergy Research, Vol. 2, 2014 Developed the Landscape Environmental Assessment Framework (LEAF) and other tools to: Estimate available residue Quantify economics Ensure ecosystem service benefits are sustained What Was Accomplished? This involved ARS, DOE, university, and private industry partners
  15. 15. Utilized Multiple Harvest Technologies University Park Lincoln Ames, Morris & St. Paul Florence Industry Collaborators
  16. 16. What Was Learned?  Corn grain yields ranged from 5.0 to 14.3 Mg ha-1 (80 to 227 bu/acre)  Average grain yield response to stover harvest was minimal:  9.8, 10.1, and 10.1 Mg ha-1 (156, 160, and 160 bu/acre) for:  No, moderate (3.9 Mg ha-1 or 1.7 tons/acre), or high removal (7.2 Mg ha-1 or 3.2 tons/acre)  Sustainable stover harvest rates are site specific – averages are meaningless  Appropriate residue harvest may encourage Midwest producers to adopt no-till corn production practices
  17. 17. Other Lessons – Including Soil Health  Compared to harvesting only grain – N, P, and K removal are increased by at least 16, 2, and 18 kg Mg-1 of stover  Minimum residue return projections for 35 studies were 6.38 ± 2.19 Mg stover ha-1 yr-1  For grain yields ≤ 11 Mg ha-1 (175 bu ac-1), ten years of stover harvest, even with no-tillage, resulted in reduced POM (particulate organic matter) accumulation  Low corn yields shifted the dry aggregate distribution toward smaller soil aggregates  Insufficient yields resulted in undesirable shifts in the microbial community  Overall, sustainable supplies of corn stover may be lower than initially projected because of weather-induced yield variability
  18. 18. Strategies to Ensure Sustainability  Encourage the entire biomass industry to understand the economic driver – limiting factor model
  19. 19. Strategies Continued  Seek large, complementary, and beneficial changes: we need food (feed) and fuel and sustainability and rural economic development and better social outcomes  Living mulches Oilseeds
  20. 20. Double Cropping  Growing cover crops (rye, triticale, brassicas) during the winter & early spring on “dedicated” corn or soybean land:  Does NOT require new land  Increases sustainable corn stover harvest rate  Provides addition biomass for biofuels, animal feed, etc  Reframes the “food vs. fuel” debate Holt, MI: May 5, 2005
  21. 21. Strategies Continued  Continue to develop management tools such as the Landscape Environmental Assessment Framework (LEAF) and self-regulating strategies to ensure sustainability Re-diversify the Midwestern Landscape
  22. 22. Re-Diversification Requires the Right Question  We are asking: Can we impose a very large new demand for biofuels on the existing agricultural system without creating soil, water, or other problems?  We should be asking: Can we redesign U.S. agriculture to produce biofuels, food/feed, and environmental services?  Would you enter the Indy 500 race driving a golf cart?  Would you use a toothbrush to sweep the floor?  Agriculture has changed before; it can change again  Examine actual land uses: most land is used for animal feed  Therefore: co-produce animal feeds with biofuels and/or  make much better use of pasture land
  23. 23. An Alfalfa Paradigm Shift Goal – diversify landscape, provide feedstock, improve soil health, & protect water quality
  24. 24. Alfalfa Leaf Protein Collection & Extraction Create market-pull for perennials by starting with a familiar crop
  25. 25. NRCS & FSA Biomass Perspectives  Energy crops include:  Woody species – cottonwood, hybrid poplas, silver maple, black locust, sweetgum, eucalyptus, sycamore and willow  Hebaceous perennials – switchgrass, bluestem, reed canarygrass, wheatgrass, miscanthus  Residues from annual crops – corn, sorghum and soybean  Biomass crops should be grown in ways that ensure environmental and economic sustainability, with minimal or no adverse effects on natural ecosystems, biodiversity and with minimal reliance on any single crop
  26. 26. NRCS & FSA Biomass Production Programs  Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)  Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)  Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)  Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)  Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)  Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP)  Establishment payments for 50% of the costs for establishing a new, perennial energy crop  Maintenance payments until the crop matures (up to: 5 years for herbaceous crops, 15 years for woody crops)  Retrieval payments (matching) for mitigating the cost of harvesting and transporting agricultural and forestry residues to the end-use facility
  27. 27. Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Perspectives  Bioenergy made from sustainably harvested cover crops has the potential to build the country’s renewable energy portfolio while conserving resources and increasing farmers’ income.  Creation of local biomass markets and greater access to incentives could significantly increase adoption rates for cover crops  Biomass potential and Trade-Offs  Cover crops producing 2 to 5 tons/acre could provide 44 to 110 million tons of biomass per year if 10% of the nation’s 220 million acres were planted and harvested  If incentives resulted in 30% adoption of cover crops, this feedstock could provide 10 to 36 billion gallons of ethanol.  The primary concern regarding cover crops is their potential negative effects on the yield of subsequent primary crops.
  28. 28. Research Needs  Effective and efficient strategies for incorporating cover crops in stover harvest systems  No-tillage technologies that incorporate site-specific, variable-rate seeding  Innovative harvest methods and new uses for perennial crops  Improved herbaceous and woody biomass cultivars with higher yield potential & better biofuel/bio-product characteristics  Quantify habitat impact of harvesting biomass  Quantify runoff, nutrient, and pesticide losses associated with biomass harvest  Develop options and practices that enhance the value of marginal lands
  29. 29. Summary & Conclusions Renewable energy is essential for human well- being Biofuels (liquid fuels from plant material) are not optional — we must have them — but they must be truly sustainable – economically, environmentally, & socially  Finally, borrowing from the Wizard of Oz – “If we only had a brain” we conclude that any perceived food vs. fuel conflict can be solved without having a negative impact on soil, water, or air resources by simply using our heads!
  30. 30. Developing Sustainable Stover Harvest Strategies is Just a First Step Toward Solving Multiple Energy and Ecosystem Challenges Any Questions?

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