A Bioenergy Field Day has been set for Aug. 5 at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s Pine Tree Experiment Station near Colt, Ark.

“We’ve got researchers from UA/Monticello and LSU looking at switchgrass and cottonwood as potential sources for bio-energy feedstock,” said Hal Liechty, UAM associate professor in the School of Forest Resources. “Currently, those can be used for things like coal-fire generation for electricity. There’s also potential to use them as cellulosic feedstock to produce liquid fuel.”

The project is looking at the production of those feedstocks.

“Also, we’re looking at different ways they can be used — wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration. That could mean additional money coming into the landowner for carbon sequestration. They could also prove to be helpful with nutrient retention, improving soil quality and other positive things.

“Another study is comparing cottonwood to other types of trees. So those who attend will be able to see the different growth rates and how the different trees are managed.”

This is the second growing season for the crops on the Pine Tree Station. “The switchgrass is doing really well and there will likely be a harvest this year,” said Liechty.

Cottonwood can be harvested every five or six years. Switchgrass can take several years to get established, but “once it gets going can be harvested annually.

“So, we’re looking at each of those crops individually as well as in combinations. A combination might include ‘alley-cropping’ where you have a 30- or 40-foot swath of switchgrass next to a 30- or 40-foot swath of cottonwood.”

One of the things being studied at the Pine Tree Station is “ecosystem services,” says Jon Barry, assistant professor and Extension forester for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “That’s providing wildlife habitat, improving water quality and things like that while still growing feedstock crops.”

Barry says besides agronomic topics, the field day agenda will have presentations explaining pertinent government programs (including BCAP, which pays for crop residue recovery) and a demonstration showing the conversion of biomass into fuel.

Field day registration will begin at 8 a.m. and speakers will start around 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be provided. For more information, contact Barry at (870) 777-9702 or e-mail jbarry@uaex.edu.

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com