Biotech Updates

Perennial Biofuel Crops Lessen Nitrogen Emmision, Study Reveals

January 16, 2013

In a four year study by scientists at the University of Illinois, a comparison of the perrenial biofuel crops namely miscanthus, switchgrass, and mixed prairie species to typical corn-corn-soybean rotations revealed that the perennial crops were highly efficient at reducing nitrogen losses, with miscanthus having the greatest yield. In the said research funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute, scientists measured the harvested biomass and nitrogen; nitrous oxide emissions; and nitrate leaching in the mid-soil profile and through tile drainage lines of the crops being studied.

The researchers found that the perennial crops quickly reduced nitrate leaching in the mid-soil profile as well as from tile lines. A scientist involved in the study concluded that overall, nitrogen levels were higher for the corn and soybean treatment as well as switchgrass, but were lower for prairie and miscanthus. Prairie and miscanthus levels were lower due to harvest of the plant biomass (and nitrogen) each winter, with no fertilizer nitrogen additions to replace it, as occurred in corn and switchgrass.

View the University of Illinois' press release at