Monday, November 13, 2006

Economics and Production of Biofuel Crops in North Carolina.

Amber Moore1, Kim Tungate1, Jim Green1, Kurt Creamer2, and Ben Rich2. (1) North Carolina State Univ, Crop Science Dept, 3213 Midpines Dr, Raleigh, NC 27606, (2) North Carolina State Univ, Solar Center, 1101 Gorman St., Raleigh, NC 27606

Many growers in North Carolina are considering the inclusion of energy crops on their farms, with petroleum fuel prices climbing and fossil fuel resources dwindling. Canola has gained attention as a biodiesel feedstock because it typically yields twice as much oil per acre as soybean, and canola biodiesel has a lower cloud point than soybean biodiesel. Switchgrass has also shown potential as an ethanol feedstock, with low fertilizer inputs and high dry matter outputs. The goal of our project is to demonstrate that canola (Brassica napus) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) can both be grown and yield profits for farmers in North Carolina. We are involved in the National Winter Canola Variety trials, looking at 34 non-GMO varieties at the Clayton research station, with plans to add additional locations in Goldsboro and the Piedmont area in the fall of 2006. Included in the trial are varieties adapted to Virginia and Georgia climatic conditions. Because switchgrass is a slow establisher and is not approved for herbicide application, there are significant weed management issues during germination. To address weed competition, we are studying the effects of row spacing and till vs. no-till on stand establishment on our plots in Clayton and Goldsboro research stations. Row spacing may reduce weed competition with dense stands, and no-till methods provide residue cover that may protect switchgrass seedlings and inhibits weed growth. We will also be testing a variety of herbicides on the effect of stand establishments, in hopes that effective herbicides would eventually be permitted for switchgrass grown as an ethanol feedstock.