A Comparative Profitability Assessment of Perennial Bioenergy Crops Grown in Missouri

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $9,999.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: University of Missouri
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Ray Massey
University of Missouri


  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. perennial), soybeans


  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Soil Management: soil analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    Emerging alternative energy markets and government programs emphasize bioenergy crops such as miscanthus and switchgrass as replacements for fossil fuels. Conservationists highlight that perennial cropping systems and especially native polyculture grasses that benefit wildlife are a viable energy source. In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded four Biomass Crop Assistance Programs (BCAP) to farmer cooperatives in Missouri to spur bioenergy development in this region. MFA Oil Biomass was awarded three BCAP projects to grow miscanthus in central and southwestern Missouri and in northeastern Arkansas. Show-Me Energy was granted a BCAP to grow native polyculture warm-season grasses in west-central Missouri and eastern Kansas. In addition, the University of Missouri has on-going research into miscanthus and switchgrass for bioenergy production. This project will evaluate the profitability of these bioenergy crops compared to annual grain production. Our analysis will incorporate the impact of the BCAP’s establishment subsidy and three-year market subsidy on the sustainability of biomass production. Farmers participating in these BCAP programs and MU research projects will provide input into the critical success factors for perennial grass production, management and marketing. From our work and farmers’ input, we will develop a farmer accessible tool to demonstrate the parameters that affect profitability including market and production risk. This information will be distributed to farmers via the cooperatives that receive BCAP funding, MU field days and project reports. The short term outcome includes knowledge and awareness on which perennial biomass crops would be most profitable in Missouri. The intermediate term result would be increasing supply of the most environmentally friendly, profitable perennial grass to biomass aggregation businesses such as MFA Oil Biomass and Show-Me Energy. In the long term, this awareness, knowledge, and expanded production will help farmers decide what bioenergy crops to plant, meet the advanced biofuels Renewable Fuels Standard, and help create a local and sustainable energy source.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Expected outputs will be:
    • A science-based, thesis explaining the study, its importance, methods, data, and results.
    • The spreadsheet model will be developed into a farmer accessible tool loaded on the internet to assist farmers making bioenergy crop decisions.
    • A guide sheet on the profitability of these different energy crops for the two biomass aggregator cooperatives currently operating to distribute to their members, interested farmers, and all other stakeholders.
    • Presentations at four MU field days/workshops occurring at various locations around the state of Missouri. A minimum of 10 educators (University of Missouri Extension, Missouri Department of Conservation, high school agricultural education instructors, etc.), 30 farmers will attend each field day. Each MU field days/workshops will consist of a presentation and discussion in conjunction with field activities at the project site.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.