Perennial grasses to be showcased at Vermeer headquarters

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Vermeer Corporation and CenUSA Bioenergy, a multi-state USDA sponsored research project led by Iowa State University, have announced a new, perennial grass energy collaboration. This summer the two organizations are showcasing high yielding, perennial grasses grown for energy. The grasses were planted Wednesday, May 7th, on two demonstration plots at Vermeer’s global headquarters in Pella, Iowa.  The plots are adjacent to Vermeer’s Global Pavilion, a 75,000 square foot, world-class training facility.

“This is a unique opportunity to test out our top candidate perennial energy grasses,” said Rob Mitchell Research Agronomist, USDA ARS, Lincoln, Nebraska and co-project director for CenUSA.  “Vermeer is very well known and equipment dealers come from all over the world to see their forage harvesting equipment demonstrated first hand at the global headquarters in Pella.” 

“The Vermeer plots also present opportunities to conduct outreach and education for agricultural producers, leaders of agricultural and conservation organizations and youth groups,” says Jill Euken, leader of CenUSA Extension programming.  “We will be hosting field days at the Vermeer plots to help people learn best practices for growing and harvesting perennial grasses.”

One of the perennial grasses being tested is ‘Liberty’ switchgrass, a new USDA ARS release that yields 40% higher than traditional varieties and is widely adapted throughout the Midwest.  Two cultivars of big bluestem (‘Bonanza’ and ‘Gold Mine’), prairie cordgrass and a perennial native grass mixture will also be evaluated for yield and feedstock quality.

“Vermeer is an international company and biomass energy is a good fit for us, said Jay Van Roekel, Vermeer’s Biomass Business Unit Manager and member of the CenUSA Advisory Board. 

“Around the world, biomass is being used to create energy, both electricity and biofuels, and Vermeer can be part of that supply chain,” said Van Roekel. “We also believe in renewable energy. It’s a growth market.”

USDA ARS will test the grasses for yield and feedstock quality (carbon, nitrogen, sugars, fiber and lignin) using near infrared reflectance spectrophotometry (NIRS). Vermeer will harvest and process the grasses with their forage harvesting and chipping equipment.

“Typically biomass is grown to meet an end users specification, said VanRoekel. “Having the plots here at headquarters will give us a chance to work with the grasses, reduce costs of harvest and improve the quality of the end product. We’ll be working on ways to improve harvest efficiency and reduce feedstock costs.”

CenUSA Bioenergy’s vision is to create a Midwestern sustainable biofuels and bioproducts system. The proposed system will improve the sustainability of existing cropping system by reducing agricultural runoff of nutrients and soil and increasing carbon sequestration. For more information on Vermeer, including an interview with Jason Andringa, President of Forage and Environmental Studies see: the June copy of BLADES, CenUSA’s e-newsletter

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