Iowa State University officials will give the public a view of the university's latest research for growing and harvesting biomass crops when it holds field tours west of Ames on August 25 and 29. The tours will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug 25 and 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 29 at the ISU Ag Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm, three miles west of Ames on highway 30.
The tours will include a presentation explaining ISU's plans for the New Century Farm, which is being built at the ISU Ag Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm. The New Century Farm is the first integrated, sustainable biofuel feedstock production farm and processing facility in the nation.
The tours will take place the day before the Farm Progress Show opens and the day after the Farm Progress Show closes. The Farm Progress Show will be held Aug. 26, 27 and 28 - at the new Farm Progress Show site which is also along Highway 30, a few miles west of the ISU Research Farm.
The ISU Ag Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm is located 3 miles west of Ames on Highway 30, across from the United Community School. Turn south on U Avenue, and the farm is on the east side of the gravel road. There is a $5 fee for the ISU tours, which are open to the public. Pre-registration isn't required.
Growing and harvesting biomass crops
"This is an opportunity to see Iowa State's research on growing and harvesting biomass and its effects on soil and water," says Mark Honeyman, coordinator of ISU's Research and Demonstration Farms. "The purpose of this research is not to replace corn and soybeans. Some of these crops may be better suited for planting in a flood plain or near a stream."
The tour will include six stops that display ISU's biomass-related research. Topics include an introduction to bioenergy crops, such as switchgrass and miscanthus, and how they are grown. There will be a stop showing 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 talk about biochar, a product leftover after processing biomass for energy, which can be returned to the soil to improve its quality.
Effects of energy crops on soil and water
The effects of biomass crops on soil and water will be discussed at a stop on the tour. Researchers have collected data on the effects of growing corn and soybeans on ag drainage, and they are now measuring the effects of growing switchgrass and other biomass crops.
The tour includes a prototype of bioenergy crop residue harvesting equipment. A combine has been fitted to collect crop residue, corncobs and husks, at the same time the grain is harvested.
The tour will include a presentation of ISU's plans for the New Century Farm, the first integrated, sustainable biofuel feedstock production farm and processing facility in the nation. For more information on the plot tours contact Sally Medford at the ISU Research and Demonstration Farms office at 515-294-5045.