***This is the second in a three-part series of a collaborative project with the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and AgGrow Tech.***
Earlier this week, we learned about a project collaboration between the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and others to find ways to increase the usage and sustainability of biomass fuel sources. We learned about the power plant at the University of Iowa. Today we are going to learn about the plant both universities are looking at in this project, the miscanthus.
Audio: Full interview with Travis Hedrick of AGgrow Tech
The miscanthus plant looks a little like a skinny stalk of bamboo. However, there is much more to it than that. Miscanthus is more closely related to sugar cane and sorghum. In fact, it can be interbred with both plant species. Travis Hedrick is the CEO of AGgrow Tech. He tells us more about this interesting plant showing up on some Iowa land.
The reason miscanthus was chosen for this project is that it can be a locally grown source of fuel, it dries down quickly before harvest, and it fits our nutrient reduction strategy because of its ability to sequester carbon. Because it is perineal, its input costs are very low. Hedrick calls it “low-risk.”
Right now, there isn’t a cash crop market for miscanthus in Iowa, other than its usage for the biomass power plant at the University of Iowa. Market development is something being worked on as well as the fuel source benefits. It can be used as livestock bedding, a fiber source in animal feed, garden mulch, hydro-mulch at construction sites, and non-woven mats and blankets for highway construction.
Hedrick says miscanthus is a very good choice if your operation has more marginal ground. As the market develops here in Iowa, the plant will help you be productive with those marginal acres.
The uses of miscanthus products are growing. Combine that with its possibilities as a fuel source, and we may see a growing demand for this crop in the very near future. Iowa has the capability of answering that demand while doing some good for its land an environment. Isn’t that what we are all about in agriculture?
***In the final part of this series, we will talk to the folks at Iowa State University about what they are finding with the miscanthus plant and its uses in the state.***