USDA ARS: Bioenergy Activities at Ames, IA

Author: 
Tom Miles

Bioenergy Activities at Ames, IA

Research Project: Ecologically-Based Soil Management for Sustainable Agriculture and Resource Conservation (3625-12000-012-00D) (D.L. Karlen, LS)

Objective: To develop innovative, ecologically-based crop and soil nutrient management practices for enhanced productivity and negligible off-site agricultural impacts.

Hypotheses:
1. Long-term average crop yield from chisel-plowed Clarion-Nicollet-Webster soils will decrease significantly by removing crop residues for biofuels production.
2. With no-tillage, at least 2 t/ac of the surface crop residue can be harvested from Clarion-Nicollet-Webster soils for biofuels production without significantly decreasing long-term average yield.
3. With intensive crop management (i.e. increased plant population, fertilizer rates, and narrow row spacing) more than 2 t/ac of biomass can be harvested from Clarion-Nicollet-Webster soils for biofuels production without significantly decreasing long-term average no-till yield.
4. With cover crops more than 2 t/ac of biomass can be harvested from Clarion-Nicollet-Webster soils for biofuels production without significantly decreasing long-term average no-till yield.
5. Applying charcoal (biochar) will significantly increase the Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) rating for Clarion-Nicollet-Webster soils where crop residues are harvested for biofuels production.

Research Project: Biogeochemical processes influencing formation and stabilization of soil organic matter and soil structure (3625-11120-011-00D) (D.L. Laird, LS, David.Laird@ars.usda.gov)

Objective: Determine the role of clay minerals and charcoal in the formation and stabilization of soil organic matter and soil structure

Hypotheses:
1. Charcoal additions to soil will have a positive impact on crop productivity in a Midwestern corn-soybean cropping system.
2. Charcoal additions to soils will stimulate formation of clay-humic complexes and the formation and stabilization of new biogenic soil organic matter.
3. Charcoal additions to soils will reduce nitrogen and pesticide leaching by increased adsorption.