UK Ag in Forefront on Biofuels Study

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 22, 2010) − A turfgrass scientist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture is part of a regional team of university researchers studying the feasibility of growing miscanthus, a warm-season hybrid grass native to China that can produce large yields (the amount of product obtained), for biomass and biofuels.

David Williams, associate professor in the UK Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is one of the researchers studying the effects of nitrogen to miscanthus yields and quality for the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation's Sun Grant Initiative.  In addition to Kentucky, researchers from the University of Illinois, Rutgers University, Virginia Tech and the University of Nebraska are also participating in the five-year study.

The project consists of researchers applying three nitrogen treatments to their research plots. Each month, they measure plant height, stems per plant and leaves per stem as well as collect yield data at harvest. They send the collected plant samples and all data to South Dakota State University researchers for analyzing. So far, a common finding is nitrogen fertilizer has no effect on miscanthus yields and quality.

"This finding has lead to several questions for researchers including, 'Are we applying at the most opportune time or using the right amounts?' " Williams said.

This miscanthus study is only the beginning and is laying the groundwork for further research.  Researchers are in the process of working through some obstacles with the plant that they need to find solutions to before it can become an economically viable crop for farmers.

For more information on the College of Agriculture biofuels study, contact Katie Pratt, 859-257-8774.