Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Growth Spurts: Choosing Cellulosic Biofuel Crops

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 288 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel must be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply in 2018. Although down slightly from last year, the industry is still growing at a modest pace.

A new multi-institution report backed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Sun Grant Initiative provides practical agronomic data for five cellulosic feedstocks - switchgrass, Miscanthus, sorghum, energycane, and prairie mixtures - in long-term trials spanning a wide geographical area.

Crops were grown for five to seven years in multiple locations and with varying levels of nitrogen fertilizer. Although most of the crops are known to tolerate poor soil quality, the researchers found that they all benefited from at least some nitrogen. For example, Miscanthus did best with an application of 53.5 pounds per acre.

Due to shortages in plant materials, Miscanthus and energycane were grown on smaller plots than the other crops, but researchers say the new results are still valuable for producers.

Prairie mixtures, which were grown on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), also benefitted from added nitrogen. Yield kept increasing with the addition of up to 100 pounds per acre. But even though it increased yield, it is economically not profitable to use more than 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

And although most of the crops are somewhat drought-tolerant, precipitation made a difference.

The results showed the greatest yield potentials for lowland switchgrass varieties in the lower Mississippi valley and the Gulf coast states, whereas Miscanthus and prairie mixture yields are likely to be greatest in the upper Midwest.

Prairie mixtures, which are typically grown on CRP land to conserve soil, didn’t live up to their potential in the study.

Energycane could reach very high yields, but in a relatively limited portion of the country.

The crop that shows the highest potential yields in the greatest number of locations is sorghum. The annual crop is highly adaptable to various conditions and might be easier for farmers to work with. In terms of management, it is almost the same as corn. It germinates and grows so quickly, weed control is not a big issue. If you plant by early June, it will be 15-20 feet tall by September. It also has good drought tolerance.

Downsides to sorghum? It’s wet at harvest and can’t be stored. It also requires nitrogen and can lodge, or collapse, prior to harvest in wet or windy conditions.

Biomass production of herbaceous energy crops in the United States: Field trial results and yield potential maps from the multiyear regional feedstock partnership

Growth Spurts
Energy Farming
Plants and Seeds
Artwork: Sorghum vulgare

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Home Grown: Seed Catalogs.

It won't be long before your mailbox is filled with seed and plant catalogs of every description. These messengers of good things to come arrive at a time when most of us are up to our ankles in snow and ready for the escape these publications offer.

However, as you thumb through the pages you might run across words that are unfamiliar. These words translate to 'horticulture speak' and are put there to help you make decisions in buying the right seed or plant for your garden.
Although words in seed catalogs might seem unfamiliar, it is important to understand their meaning. Knowing what these words means can add a lot to your horticultural knowledge and make you a better informed consumer.

Continued in... Seed Catalogs

Home Grown
Plants and Seeds
Home and Garden Center
Artwork: Vintage and Antique Garden Catalogs 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Home Grown: Frost Seeding

Livestock producers looking to renovate pastures should consider frost seeding, a low-cost method which increases yields and improves quality with little commercial nitrogen.

Frost seeding involves broadcasting a grass or legume seed over a pasture and letting the natural freeze/thaw cycles of late winter and early spring move the seed into good contact with the soil.

The best time to frost seed is usually from mid-February to the end of March.

Continued in... Frost Seeding

Home Grown
Farm Supply
Growth Spurts
Artwork: Spring Seeding

Monday, January 8, 2018

Home Grown: Growing Heirlooms.

Most gardeners have heard of heirloom seeds and probably have a fairly good idea what they are. Gardeners often refer to heirloom seeds as "Grandmother's seed" or something similar.

As the name implies, heirloom seeds are carried down from generation to generation, similar to handing down a desired antique from generation to generation. What is so special about this? Isn't that what a seed company can do? In short, yes. But the full answer to this question is a little more complicated...

Heirloom seed is obtained from open pollination and produces seed that is not a clone of the parent plants but typically looks a lot like the parent. You can usually collect seeds from heirloom plants (plants grown with heirloom seed) and obtain offspring that resemble the parent plants.

Continued in... Growing Heirlooms

Home Grown
Plants and Seeds
Growing Guides
Artwork: Heirloom Tomatoes

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Rural Delivery: Dark of Winter.

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved.

In the dark days that follow the winter solstice, the last of December through the middle of January, I anxiously track the growth of daylight for reassurance that the tide has indeed turned and that winter will eventually give way to the brightening of early spring.

At this latitude of approximately 45 degrees, daylight grows ever so slowly at first, just a minute more each day until the middle of January, when it starts to grow by twos and then by threes at the month's end.

What I always find curious, and faintly disturbing, is that the day does not grow evenly. The sun sets a minute later each day for the week following the solstice, but it rises the same time day after day.

How could this be?

Continued at... Dark of Winter.

Rural Delivery
Out There
Outrider Books and Travel
Artwork: Dark of Winter.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Home Grown: Creating a Container Herb Garden

Growing plants can be a great deal of fun, especially if the plants are easy to care for. That's why a favorite group of plants for home gardening is culinary herbs.  Not only do these plants add a variety of color to the landscape and are good filler plants in perennial and herb gardens, they add flavor to your favorite food dish.

Growing herbs in containers can add variety, fragrance, and a splash of color to a deck, balcony, patio, or any small space.  Herbs can be used alone in containers or mixed with annual flowers or vegetables.

Continued in... Creating a Container Herb Garden

Home Grown
Herbs and Herb Kits
Home and Garden Center
Artwork: Wooden Garden Plant Tray