ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — University of Minnesota biofuels researchers are teaming up with master gardeners in the school’s extension service.

They’re seeking to find out whether biofuel production can reduce water and nutrient runoff from farm fields, cut down on erosion and turn a profit for farmers who grow it. They’ll explore that possibility under a five-year, $25 million multistate grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The nationwide research will focus on using perennial grasses as a feedstock for biofuels. The Minnesota research will test biochar — a nutrient-rich leftover from using heat to convert the biomass into fuel — as a soil amendment. The master gardeners will test biochar’s ability to increase productivity in vegetable and flower gardens, and determine its viability as a commercial product for home gardeners.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (5)
  1. Greg Clifford says:

    It’s thought that farmers growing corn on marginal soils will find that growing native plants with no tilling, no irrigation, no fertilizer, no pesticides, and that often have several crops a season, can come out ahead by this process. Critics say that the corn ethanol energy gain is slight, and in light of rising demand for crops, subsidies will likely shift to cellulose ethanol anyway. No runoff problems.

    This may become a very profitable solution that reduces the enormous shipping cost of biomass. Power companies can reduce CO2 by adding this product, so that’s likely to become a requirement, making sales a certainty.

    Torrefaction, as it’s called, could be really big to Minnesota farmers. But the oxygen-deprived, low-temperature baking equipment and briquette making machinery is not generally available. Somebody’s going to have to sell a lot of it.

  2. Murph says:

    Under what name does our current federal or state government agency actually produce any bio fuel product or facilitate it’s production?Why are diesel engines and fuel oil engines not using non polluting algae oil today? Since they work just as good and don’t pollute! Why are we continuing to pollute our air,earth and water supply by mining and using fossil fuel? Dissolve Congress today or starve tommorrow! Sure the rich are getting richer and as the agents in government who get paid offs to help them and only them do it.Who is helping any of us? Does anyone really believe that this country will not implode when we can no longer support or even survive this greedy system? Wake up and smell the oil! Algae could one day save us once it gets a fair shake,a fair trial and a louder lobby than the 450 lb oil executives!

    1. Ordinary Guy says:

      The UMN is exploring ways to partner with industrial corporations to get their great algae work into the field, but to do that, they have to bring the production cost down from $20/gallon to $3/gallon as the market requires. This could be the team that could do just that.

      Going full-scale takes cooperation from everyone, but then, everyone stands to benefit from this kind of success. That’s something they can work on.

  3. waste says:

    25 million to put fertilizer in the soil? Hey, I just added a bag of fertilizer for 25$ to my grass.

    If you want to see if run off is less with grass, take a drive in the country. Any farmer can show you evidence without spending millions.

    Seriously, we are spending our way into poverty. We may need to eat this grass.

  4. Ordinary Guy says:

    You can just go over and talk to the guy, I did. He takes the oil out of stuff that looks and smells like coffee grounds, but it still has the fertilizer in it that the algae ate. Selling the byproduct is part of the puzzle to make “green” fuels affordable to us.

    You can bet that he’s not getting anything but a small portion of that money for his lab, but if it works,….. how much do we spend on fuel now and where does the money go?

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