Miscanthus: Coming to a field near you!

February 21, 2020 12:59 PM
Blog Post

Current and Future Miscanthus in Iowa


Figure 1. Iowa State University’s miscanthus nitrogen trial plots at Sorenson Farm. (Miscanthus is the tall grass in the back) Photo Credit: Heaton Lab ISU 

AGgrowTech is responsible for over 1,100 acres of miscanthus in Iowa and that number will likely be increasing. The grass is currently grown for the University of Iowa’s power plants as part of their effort to use zero coal by 2025. Besides biofuel feedstocks, another miscanthus market is growing: bedding for livestock. Poultry production is expected to grow 10-12% over the next decade and miscanthus could play an important role. AGgrowTech has partnered with North Carolina State University and found that miscanthus bedding is better for poultry production compared to traditional wood shavings bedding. Maryland recently planted over 1,000 acres of miscanthus for poultry bedding and Iowa could see similar actions taking place. Major poultry producers in Northwestern and Eastern Iowa are testing miscanthus bedding for their production operations. If the producers like the product, Iowa could gain 1000’s of acres of miscanthus.

Benefits of Miscanthus Bedding

The benefits of miscanthus bedding and production outweigh those of traditional wood shaving bedding. These benefits include:

Economic


Figure 2. Poultry bedding made from miscanthus Photo Credit: AG grow tech

  • Longer lasting bedding
  • 3x more biomass per acre 
  • Less processing for final product
  • Better feed conversion ratio
  • Grown locally

Environmental

  • Reduced poultry ammonia emissions
  • Reduces nitrate leaching
  • Reduced soil erosion
  • Increased soil organic matter
  • Better compost

Animal Health

  • Improved foot health
  • Maintain weight
  • 3x more absorbent
  • 20% less moisture 
  • Sap free bedding
  • Less mortality 


Figure 3. Chickens in poultry house with miscanthus bedding. Photo Credit: AGgrow Tech

Overall, miscanthus bedding provides several economic, environmental, and animal health benefits that traditional wood shaving bedding does not and therefore is the superior option.

Be sure to check out past and future blogs as well as ISUBiomass on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates regarding miscanthus!

More information regarding miscanthus production and miscanthus bedding can be found on AGgrowTech’s website: https://aggrowtech.com/.

Product of ISUBiomass Undergrad Team

 

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Authors: 

Emily Heaton Associate Professor of Agronomy

Agricultural landscapes face increasing pressure to provide the four F's: food, feed, fiber and fuel, while simultaneously maintaining the ecosystem functions that support life as we know it. Done prudently, dedicated biomass crops can provide feedstock for bioenergy and bioproducts while also en...