Biofuel Production and Wildlife Conservation in Working Prairies

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2009 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$250,000
Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$500,000
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
Recipient
University of Minnesota
Recipient Type
Public College/University
Status
Completed
Start Date
July 2008
End Date
June 2011
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2008, Chp. 367, Sec. 2, Subd. 03q
Appropriation Language

$250,000 is from the trust fund to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to research and evaluate methods of managing diverse working prairies for wildlife and renewable bioenergy production. On June 1, 2008, the $500,000 appropriation for the Phillips biomass community energy system under Laws 2006, chapter 243, section 20, subdivision 3, is transferred and added to this appropriation. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2011, at which time the project must be completed and final products delivered, unless an earlier date is specified in the work program.

2009 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$250,000
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2008, Chp. 367, Sec. 2, Subd. 3q
Appropriation Language

$250,000 is from the trust fund to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to research and evaluate methods of managing diverse working prairies for wildlife and renewable bioenergy production. On June 1, 2008, the $500,000 appropriation for the Phillips biomass community energy system under Laws 2006, chapter 243, section 20, subdivision 3, is transferred and added to this appropriation. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2011, at which time the project must be completed and final products delivered, unless an earlier date is specified in the work program.

Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$500,000
Project Overview

Overall Project Outcome and Results
Minnesota prairies reliably produce bioenergy resources which largely go untapped. This project sought management practices to promote wildlife and habitat diversity on future working prairies used for bioenergy in Minnesota. It combined harvested areas with refuges and monitored wildlife populations and bioenergy potential in Minnesota grasslands, while developing protocols for future long-term work.

We collaborated with land managers of established prairies to survey birds, insects, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants and soils in regions across western Minnesota. Statistical trends show that harvesting grasslands with refuge remaining does not reduce wildlife abundance. In fact, harvested areas supported greater biomass of insects for bird food. Harvesting can also increase overall small mammal abundance when equal area is left as refuge. These results are being clarified in the ongoing second phase of this project.

We measured bioenergy potential measured by harvesting prairies with production-scale equipment. We tested various harvesting machinery, techniques, and bale types, and found current round baling technology more amenable to these plots, a discbine cutter mounted on a four-wheel drive tractor as the most effective cutting equipment, and tractors with custom-made front and rear mounted bale spikes worked best for transport. We obtained noticeably higher quantities of biomass per acre in the south, but biomass quality was approximately the same. Harvesting three years in a row did not reduce yield, and we found mixed-species biomass can produce at least as much liquid fuel per unit mass as switchgrass. Our bioenergy partners reported that bales of prairie grass have better storage life than other renewable feedstocks they used.

The large amount of data produced is being made available on the project website for general use. Results from this first phase of the project will inform future land management by analyzing the intersection of renewable energy and wildlife conservation.

Project Results Use and Dissemination
We have a project website available (www.cbs.umn.edu/wildlife) to make the ideas and results available world-wide. This website will continue to develop as the protocols for this project are refined and as data become available. The project will also be featured in Cedar Creek educational programs for school-age and other groups. Presentations (oral and poster) to special interest groups, research groups, and other interested parties continued by project collaborators throughout the project. The first publication from this project in a peer-reviewed scientific outlet is now available. (Jungers et al., Characterizing Grassland Biomass for Energy Production and Habitat in Minnesota, Proceedings of the 22nd North American Prairie Conference, 2010). Further publications will be submitted as the project moves into its second phase.

Project Details