- Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animal Production: feed/forage
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
- Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
- Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting, weather monitoring
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities
There are currently no industry standards for growing, harvesting and mixing bio-mass to produce a pellet that can compete with wood pellets on ash content and BTU production. Currently, most grasses used for pelleting are pot luck without any control standards and guidelines. Grass is an annually renewable resource most farmers have extensive knowledge and experience growing and harvesting grass in addition; they have land available for growing grass for bio-mass. Determining the most viable species and proper harvesting procedures needed to produce high quality grass pellets would open a new Bio-region market for farmers in Delaware County. Idle fields could be put back into production and farmers would have a annually renewable cash crop to help maintain their way of life and may help stabilize a vital industry in Delaware County. Declining agriculture from dwindling farms and the need for alternative energy faces the residents of Delaware County every day. With the number of farms reducing their size or shutting down all together there is an abundance of idle fields in a close proximity. These idle fields could be utilized by farmers to grow bio-mass resource to supply mills with a product to produce high quality pellets for energy production. Having a local supply of Bio-fuel would help decrease the demand for fossil fuels in this region.
Project objectives from proposal:
The first step of the project will be to lay out and prepare ten 1 acre test plots. This will involve mowing, spraying twice, soil tests, fertilization (if called for) and planting, seeds and plugs. Some species will need to be planted as plugs due to the short growing season in this region. It is necessary to keep the field mowed to 6-8 inches during the first growing season. Growth and survival rates will be monitored throughout the growing season and harvesting will occur in late Aug/Sept. The cut grass will be left to season for varying times, directly from the field to one week.
A pellet mill will be rented in order to test different grass and bio-mass mixes and The moisture content of the hay will be tested before pelleting. After the pellets are produced they will be pressure tested for density and firmness and burn tests will be preformed to test the amount of ash produced and the BTU output.
Knowing the best grasses to plant for pelletization will allow farmers the opportunity to grow an annual cash crop for bio-fuel production. This will also allow idle fields to be put back into production.