ISU Biomass blog series introduction

February 12, 2019 4:20 PM
Blog Post

Welcome to ISU Biomass, led by the Heaton Lab at Iowa State University. Together with our partners, we work to integrate perennial crops into the annual crop landscape to improve economic, environmental, and social outcomes. One of our focus areas is the production and ecophysiology of giant miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus).

Pictures of ISU Biomass team and activities
Figure 1. Heaton lab members are part of ISU Biomass, and work to advance biomass crops for energy, fiber, and ecosystem services.

In the coming blogs, the Heaton Lab undergrads will give you updates on what we have learned about miscanthus in Iowa, general practices and outcomes associated with miscanthus, and tell you about some of our other upcoming work. The Heaton Lab strives to foster a healthy and enjoyable work environment for all employees, leading to a sense of community with each other and our superiors. Our lab, in turn, takes pride in the role we play as part of the research published by the Heaton Lab.  We hope you will comment and tell us what questions you have, and what you would like to see more of in these posts!

Our major projects:

LAMPS

The purpose of Long Term Assessment of Miscanthus Productivity and Sustainability (LAMPS) is to address the challenges facing miscanthus establishment and production. It also serves to highlight the benefits of using miscanthus as a biomass crop for bioenergy. LAMPS assesses the viability of giant miscanthus at three different locations across Iowa.

CABBI

Currently, the Department of Energy (DOE) is funding the Center of Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI). The fourth Bioenergy Research Center within the nation, CABBI’s mission is to develop efficient ways to grow bioenergy crops, transform biomass into valuable chemicals, and to market the resulting biofuels and other bioproducts. Iowa State University is a collaborator, and the Heaton Lab is excited to be the official representatives. 

Potholes

A new USDA NIFA supported project at Iowa State will investigate perennializing farmed potholes to improve ecosystem function. The goal of the project is to provide information on the agronomic, economic, and environmental performance of the perennial bioenergy crop miscanthus, in areas that frequently flood and have standing ponds of water.  Over the next three years, the project will measure production as well as some key greenhouse gas and water quality metrics for both a "typical annual" management compared to the perennial management strategy.

Subfield Ecosystem Services

The Agricultural Economic Performance Engine (AEPE) is a tool and framework meant to identify marginal, unprofitable areas of farmland for targeted use change. AEPE incorporates land-use, soils, crop budget, and market data. AEPE is also a part of the interdisciplinary C-CHANGE initiative (stay tuned!), which aims to incorporate perennials and alternative crops in the Midwest for targeted soil, water, economic, and ecological benefits.

Authors: Perla Carmenate, Valeria Cano, Collin De Graaf, Tyler Donovan, Danielle Wilson, Emily Heaton. 

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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...