Southern Iowa Biomass Crop Workshop

February 14, 2012
ICM News

By Emily Heaton, Department of Agronomy and Rick Sprague, Natural Resources Conservation and Service

There is increasing interest in biomass crops for energy in Iowa. Initially, it was thought that strong commodity prices would limit the interest of growers in planting perennials for bioenergy, but that doesn't seem to be the case. A Biomass Crop Production workshop Thursday, March 8, at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa will explore why interest is increasing. The program will start at 8:45 a.m. and conclude at 2:15 p.m.

Workshop participants will learn about opportunities to grow and market profitable biomass crops that are adapted to southern Iowa soils and climate. The Southern Iowa Resource Conservation and Development Area has been working with Iowa State University and the Iowa Farm Energy Working Group to evaluate biomass crops, including giant Miscanthus and warm season grasses that can be used to produce renewable energy feedstocks. Two companies are cooperating in this joint venture, with plans to create businesses that convert biomass to anhydrous ammonia and energy pellets. Collectively, these renewable energy enterprises would consume 54,000 acres of energy crops and create over 50 new jobs.

Based on feedback from the 2011 Workshop, this year's event has been structured with more time for participants to interact with speakers.  The morning session will feature three speakers.  Steve Flick of ShowMe Energy with an update on his company's activities since they received funding from the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in Missouri.  John Caveny , the second speaker, will focus on Miscanthus production.  He has been growing  Miscanthus longer than any farmer in the United States and will share his experiences and offer advice on growing Miscanthus as an energy crop.  The final speaker, Allen Powell of the Farm Service Agency in Columbia, Mo., will tell how BCAP is working on the ground. 

Guided small group discussions and networking opportunities will make up the afternoon activities. Discussion will focus on identifying strengths and needs in developing a strong supply chain in Southern Iowa.

Pre-registration is $20 until midnight, March 2. After that registration is $30. Registration can be completed online with a credit card (MasterCard or VISA only) at the event website. Registrations may also be faxed with a credit card to 515- 294-1311 or be mailed along with a check or credit card information to: ANR Program Services, 2101 Agronomy Hall, Ames, Iowa, 50011-1010. Registration includes refreshments, lunch and class materials. A student discount is available.

Registrations will be accepted the day of the workshop with registration opening at 8 a.m. on March 8.  For more information, call (515) 294-6429 or email

This program is sponsored by ISU Extension, USDA-NRCS, Southern Iowa Resource Conservation and Development Area and SynGest.

Emily Heaton is an Iowa State University Extension production biomass specialist. She can be contacted at 515-294-1310 or Rick Sprague is the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Grassland Specialist for Southwest Iowa.  He can be reached at 641-782-4218  or

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Integrated Crop Management News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on February 14, 2012. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.


Emily Heaton Assistant 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...