In the Media

Paper details where to grow biomass

CenUSA researcher D.K. Lee has published a paper (Sun Grant funding), Biomass production of herbaceous energy crops in the United States: field trial results and yield potential maps from the multiyear regional feedstock partnership. The paper is open access and available here;jsessionid=4380F6D908B04A016742186EE291FF6E.f03t01.

Additional information is available here from Science Daily:

Jan 18, 2018

Report: Bioenergy crops can mitigate climate change effects

From international consultancy group Bioenergy Crops comes the article "Why bioenergy crops (already) met expectations." The article provides a high level overview of a study published in the open source journal Global Change Biology.

The study, Consensus, uncertainties and challenges for perennial bioenergy crops and land use concludes "...there is enough consensus for conclusive evidence that perennial bioenergy crops can mitigate climate change emissions with very high savings of CO2 when cultivated on marginal lands."

The full paper is available here.

Dec 07, 2017

CenUSA releases latest research report

Find out what our amazing research team is up to with perennial grasses in our latest report. We are so nice we have also provided Executive Summaries! .

The report covers the activities of our 10 research objectives from August 1, 2016 to July 31, 2017. Questions? Contact Anne Kinzel at 515.294.8473.

Nov 28, 2017

Climate change may confuse switchgrass dormancy cycles

CenUSA collaborator D.K. Lee was quoted in "Climate change may confuse plant dormancy cycles" in the online publication Lee and his research team looked at "the interplay in soil temperature, day length, and dormancy  in switchgrass and prairie cordgrass. 

In addition to the short piece in you can learn more in the journal article: Jia Guo et al. Growth and Development of Two Perennial Grasses in Ambient Light Conditions during their Natural Dormant Period, Crop Science (2017). DOI: 10.2135/cropsci2016.09.0823

Aug 09, 2017

CenUSA releases report on biochar use in home gardens

Biochar WordleIncreased interest and research in biomass and biofuels has promoted the use of biochar, a coproduct of the pyrolysis process, as an amendment to improve soil health.

To answer the question whether biochar would benefit home gardeners and grow more productive plants we amended soils at four demonstration sites in Minnesota were with hardwood biochar. With the assistance of Extension Master Gardener volunteers, we grew, harvested and measured common garden crops over four years to see if those grown in biochar-amended soils were more productive.

Variables in weather, crops and volunteer interpretation of data did not provide conclusive results. However, the poorer soils amended with biochar showed some increase in soil pH and percent organic matter, and clay loam soils were less compacted. Most crop yields showed improvement over the four years; however, we believe these increased yields were likely affected by a combination of factors (rainfall, air temperatures) and cannot be directly attributed to the addition of biochar.

To access the full report click here.

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener CenUSA Biochar Demonstration Gardens 2012-2015. 2017. Lynne Davenport-Hagen, Julie Weisenhorn, Mary H. Meyer, Luna Xiaoye Su

Aug 01, 2017

David Laird wins Soil Scientist Research Award

From the Iowa State University Agronomy Department Newsletter

SSSA Soil Scientist Research Award
David Laird (CenUSA CO-Project Director) has been named the 2017 Soil Science Society Association's Soil Scientist Research award recipient. He will be recognized during the annual meeting in Tampa in October 2017.

Over more than 30 years of professional activity, each area of his work has substantially advanced fundamental principles in soil science and has laid a foundation for subsequent efforts of other scientists. 

Jun 30, 2017

Multifunction agriculture - A place for switchgrass & other perennials

If you are interested in how perennial grasses can be part of a sustainable transformation in Midwestern agriculture you will find this brief article fascinating.

Authors Stephen John (Agricultural Watershed Istitute) and Gregory McIsaac discuss how the American Midwest can move from a landscape dominated by row crop production to "multifunctional agriculture" featuring biomass crops.

Multifunctional Agriculture: A New Paradigm of Mixed Cropping [Solutions Journal 8(1)66-76 Jan. 2017] is available online at @SolutionsMag.


Jun 16, 2017

Switchgrass a good tool for strip-mine site reclamation

Abandoned strip mine sites may loose their eyesore status if our colleagues at NEWBio — the Northeast Woody/Warm-season Bioenergy Consortium are right about switchgrass.

Read "Research focuses on reclaiming strip-mine sites for biofuel crop production" (Penn State News 5/23) and learn more about Marvin Hall's work with switchgrass as a better way of restoring land that had previously been both deep mined and strip mined.

May 25, 2017

Can bedding from perennials help the Chesapeake Bay

Lancaster Farming shared "Grad Students Hope to Reduce Poultry’s Impact on Bay Water." (5/12/17)

It might be possible for producers to create a carbon-neutral production system where poultry bedding would be grown on farm and then harvested for use in the farm's broiler houses.

Penn State graduate student Erica Rogers' early results suggest that by following some new practices poultry producers could lower the impact of poultry raising on the Chesapeake Bay.

Learn more about this study on bedding alternatives including switchgrass, miscanthus, and willow here.



May 15, 2017

CenUSA announces release of InMAP, an air pollution intervention model

CenUSA CO-PD Jason Hill (Obj. 4 - System Performance) and his team have announced the availability of "InMAP: Intervention model for air pollution: Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Tool to 
Understand the Consequences." The work was partially funded by CenUSA.

Links to the paper, published in the journal PLOS ONE and a page describing its capabilities are available at:








Apr 26, 2017

NewBio releases fact sheet: "Bipolaris Leaf Spot on Switchgrass"

Our USDA-NIFA AFRI CAP colleagues at New Bio have released a new fact sheet, Bipolaris Leaf Spot on Switchgrass: Bipolaris species.

The author is Kittikun Songsomboon with co-authors Dr. J. Hansen and Dr. G. Bergstrom, Dr. D. Viands (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University). The fact sheet details the symptoms and signs, life cycle, and management strategies for the disease Bipolaris infection.

Access the fact sheet here.

Apr 03, 2017

Integrating perennials into the row crop landscape

The future may well include annuals and perennials in a beneficially mixed landscape. According the "Meet the Plant that is Bridging Renewable Energy, Rural Development, and Environmental Benefits*" the central US may soon see perennial and annual crops supporting each other in a vibrant landscape.

The US DOE has also included a short video "Bioenergy in a multifunctional landscape" available here.

*Article and video originally published by the U.S. Department of Energy in the public domain.


Feb 14, 2017

Missouri prof asks 'Is switchgrass the answer?"

For switchgrass to make inroads as a viable ag product it has to solve someone's problem. Erosion control may be a problem that switchgrass is well suited to helping solve in the American Midwest.

Lear more in "Is Switchgrass the Answer?" available here.

Jan 09, 2017

Corn and switchgrass: Not so strange bedfellows

CenUSA collaborator D.K. Lee, in a study funded by the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I and the Energy Biosciences Institute says:

“We have shown that farmers can grow corn as a companion crop with switchgrass to generate revenue in the establishment year,” [...]  “The following year, switchgrass emerges early like other perennial grasses starting from crowns.” 

Learn more about corn and switchgrass and their potential for positive co-existance in "Earn cash by establishing switchgrass."

Jan 04, 2017

CenUSA releases 3rd quarter report

CenUSA Bioenergy has released its latest quarterly report covering research and extension/outreach activities between February 1, 2016 to April 30, 2016. Learn what our federally-funded (USDA-NIFA) project has been up to.

This report covers the activities of each of our ten objectives, including our Commercialization Objective.

Nov 29, 2016

Iowa State's "Corn CAP" honored by USDA

Congratulations to Iowa State's "Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-Based Cropping Systems" team for being honored by the USDA for their transdisciplinary research, extension, and education projects in nine states to identify strategies to make corn production climate resilient.

Learn more about this award here and learn more about this great project . 

Oct 07, 2016

US Biobased Industry hits $393B in revenue, 4.22M jobs

The USDA has just released a report with the data on how much the biobased products industry is contributing to the U.S. economy.

Iin 2014, the total was $393 billion in value added to the economy and 4.223 million jobs. The multiplier effect of the activity show that for every 1,000 jobs in the biobased industry supported 1,760 additional jobs in other parts of the economy. The article adds perspective on what this means to the overall economy and is a quick and informative read.

Learn more at from Biofuels Digest.


Oct 05, 2016

Are you interested in floodplain management?

The Flooding in Iowa Project is a series of web-based videos designed to educate local officials and the general public about floodplains, flood risks, and basic floodplain management principles.  The videos are divided into five categories: Introduction to the NFIP, Understanding Flooding, Floodplain Mapping, Floodplain Regulation, and Flood Insurance.  The tabs located on the top of this web page take you to each of these categories where you will find the related videos and participant materials.  

Use this three minute video to familiarize yourself with the navigation of the website, website features, and the resources provided through the Flooding in Iowa Project.

Sep 02, 2016

CenUSA's Robert Brown takes on the creative accounts

Sometimes people just have enough. The truly motivated take pen to paper which is just what CenUSA Co-Project Director and Director of Iowa State University's Bioeconomy Institute Robert Brown has done.

In an op-ed piece in the Des Moines Register (8/31), Biofuels are worse than gasoline? Creative accounting leads to claim, Brown takes to task those who would claim that conventional gasoline is less environmentally harmful than biofuels.


Aug 31, 2016

CenUSA co-sponsors Biochar 2016 conference

Biochar 2016: August 22-25, 2016, Oregon State University, Corvallis

Learn more about CenUSA and Biochar

Experience the Synergy
Over the last several years, researchers have helped open up many promising avenues for biochar market development in North America. Likewise, many entrepreneurs and small business owners have made investments to develop commercial markets. With so much research being published on biochar (over 5000 publications in 2015 alone!), there is a need to bring together these two groups to share information, lessons learned, and to solicit ideas on the pathway forward for biochar commercial development. The US Biochar Initiative and Sustainable Obtainable Solutions aims to bring together stakeholders in the applied biochar research community and the private sector to further biochar market development.

**Early bird extended to July 29th! – Register now to take advantage of discounted rates!


Jul 22, 2016

Cows and switchgrass: A potential win, win?

Is switchgrass a potential feed source for cattle? CenUSA has been investigating the potential of switchgrass as cattle feeding supplement and now we see that our northern neighbors are up to the same thing.

Ontario (Canada) farmers Kees and Yvonne Van Esveld have been experimenting with switchgrass as ration supplement in the dairy operation. You can learn more her in this brief article from the Ontario Farmer.

CenUSA's switchgrass and cattle resources include:

Jul 15, 2016

DOE releases 2016 billion ton report

The DOE's billion ton report is a huge driver for the bioeconomy. Lear all about the 2016 report from Biofuels Digest here. We would love to hear your thoughts on the report on our Twitter account @CenUSABioenergy.

Update: A fully "interactive" copy of the report is available here.

Jul 13, 2016

Publication highlights need to understand effect of biomass production

Is increased biomass production What do we need to know about increased biomass production?

As production of bioproducts and biofuels from agricultural biomass becomes increasingly popular as part of the solution towards to a lower carbon world, scientists must develop a greater understanding of the effects of increased biomas planting.

The journal article Biogeochemical Research Priorities for Sustainable Biofuel and Bioenergy Feedstock Production in the Americas*, looks at the gaps in research on biogeochemical processes and ecosystem sustainability related to biomass production.

The full journal publication is available free of charge here. A summary is available from Biofuels Digest.

* Environmental Management
December 2015, Volume 56, Issue 6, pp 1330–1355 DOI: 10.1007/s00267-015-0536-7

Jun 28, 2016

CenUSA updates Switchgrass Production Tool

June 28, 2016 - CenUSA updates Switchgrass Production Tool.

We have updated our Switchgrass Decision Tool. Click here to access the latest version (6/28/16) of the Tool Worksheet.

To learn more about To Grow or not to Grow: A Tool for Comparing Returns to Switchgrass for Bioenergy with Annual Crops and CRP click here

This tool is intended to give producers a guide to understanding best management practices for switchgrass production and also to compare the expected returns to switchgrass production with several alternative land uses. 

The tool uses a worksheet format to allow producers to:

  • Calculate Production Estimates
  • Compare Per-Acre Net Returns
Jun 28, 2016

$21 Million in new bioenergy funding available 

rom the USDA comes the news of $21 million in new funding to support the development of regional systems in sustainable bioenergy and biobased products, and education and training for the next generation of scientists.

The goal is to expand availability of renewable, sustainable goods and energy. This funding is available through the USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The initiative is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

For the 2016 fiscal year, the AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts challenge area is soliciting applications that focus on the following priorities:

  • Regional Bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs), which support the production and delivery of regionally-appropriate sustainable biomass feedstocks for bioenergy and bioproducts. While the focus of CAPs will be on feedstocks, competitive proposals must present the feedstock development and production in the context of comprehensive regional sustainable bioenergy and bioproducts supply chain systems.
  • Investing in America's scientific corps: Preparing a new generation of students, faculty, and a workforce for emerging opportunities in bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy

Letters of intent are required by July 14, 2016, and the closing date for this opportunity is September 22, 2016.  Application deadlines vary by program area.

Read find the full funding opportunity announcement here

Jun 01, 2016

BCAP program to resume

The USDA will be accepting new applications for incentive funding to farmers and foresters who grow nad harvest biomass for sustainable energy and biobased products. Enrollment takes place from MAy 23 - June 6, 2016.

Learn more in this announcement from the Farm Service Agency.

May 25, 2016

CenUSA to co-sponsor Biochar 2016, Aug 22-25

USBI LogoBiochar has always been a big part of the CenUSA vision so we jumped at the opportunity to co-sponsor Biochar 2016: The Synergy of Science and Industry: Biochar’s Connection to Ecology, Soil, Food, and Energy.

The event is being put on by the US Biochar Initiative and Sustainable Obtainable Solutions and will be held in Corvallis, Oregon August 22-25, 2016.

Who should attend: are you a biochar producer, farmer, forester, policy maker, industry professional,  entrepreneur, student or interested citizen? Then this event is for you.

Learn more in the conference flyer or register here.


May 24, 2016

CenUSA says goodbye to fantastic interns Ali Lenger & Jake Miller

The end of the semester is not always roses, sometimes you have to so goodbye and good luck.

CenUSA has had the good fortune of having excellent interns from Iowa State's Greenlee College of Journalism to help us with our BLADES newsletter and social media outlets. This year we have to say thanks, goodbye and good luck to Ali Lenger and Jake Miller. Ali and Jake did an excellent job of helping us publicize CenUSA's work in the emerging bioeconomy and we were lucky to have them as part of our team.

We asked Jake and Ali to share some of the wisdom they acquired while with us to share with students who in their footsteps as journalism/public relations interns. Here is their story:

May 16, 2016

CenUSA Master Gardeners win Minnesota horticulture award

Congratulation to our Minnesota Extension Master Gardener / Citizen Scientists  for their "Search for Excellence in Consumer or Commercial Horticulture-Minnesota" award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents!

Preliminary results show biochar had some beneficial effect on certain crop performance in poor (low nutrient) soils, and informally, volunteers observed biochar-amended soils were less compacted.

You can learn more about the work of our Master Gardener/Citizen Scientists at:

May 16, 2016

BLADES newsletter now available

The May edition of our BLADES newsletter is available. We have articles featuring:

  • Lignin - Is there a market?
  • CenUSA's own pioneering woman in agriculture
  • Switchgrass safety
  • Genera Energy

Catch these stories an more here

May 03, 2016

Opportunities for Value-Added Ag Producers

Our USDA-NIFA colleagues at NewBio have made us aware of a new USDA funded opportunity for Ag producers. According to NewBio, "Up to $44 million will be made available to farmers, ranchers and businesses through the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant program."

The funding focuses on assisting "[...] viable Independent Producers, Agricultural Producer Groups, Farmer and Rancher Cooperatives, and Majority-Controlled Producer-Based Businesses in starting or expanding value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of Value-Added Agricultural Products.

The application deadline is July 1, 2016. Electronic applications are permitted via only, and must be received before midnight Eastern Time, June 24, 2016.  Find out more via the Fed. Reg. website.

May 02, 2016

Biofuels Digest features the Renmatix story

Biofuels industry media heavyweight Biofuels Digest featured CenUSA collaborator Renmatix today.

The story features 16 slides that focus on just how this technology licensor sees its clients capturing the bio-based sugar market in Fast & Flexible: The Digest's 2016 Multi-Slide Guide to Renmatix.  

CenUSA has been working with Renmatix since 2015 to bring perennial grasses into the Renmatix value equation. You can find out more about Renmatix in these CenUSA produced materials:

Apr 18, 2016

Is lignin the new special sauce factor for better bioplastics?

As article in Biofuels Digest touts the work of Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists who are helping to crack the 'lignin barrier' currently hampering increased biofuels production.

ORNL researchers say they have made a "better thermoplastic" by taking out the styrene and using lignin instead. Learn all about this new thermoplastic called ABL, short for acrylonitrile butadiene in "ORNL researchers invent tougher plastic with 50 percent renewable content."

Note: We will be featuring an article in our June BLADES newsletter on the commercial potential of lignin. 

Mar 28, 2016

Penn State NEWBio colleagues harvest first shrub willow crop

Congratulations to our NEWBio  colleagues at Penn State University on their recent first harvest of 34 acres of fast-growing shrub willow from a Penn State demonstration field. You can learn more in the article "Experimental biomass harvest a step toward sustainable, biofuels-powered future." Click here to read the entire article.

Mar 10, 2016

Yeast and Switchgrass: Who knew they like to party

From the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) comes the news that an assistant research specialist has found a way to potentially improve the process of producing fuel from switchgrass and other forms of cellulosic biomass using yeast.

Feb 16, 2016

Switchgrass: An ally in the push for improved water quality?

Can switchgrass production aid in the fight to improve water quality? Yes, according to a new study by the Argonne National Laboratory and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). 

You can learn more about the study, "Identifying and Mitigating Potential Nutrient and Sediment Hot Spots under a Future Scenario in the Missouri River Basin" here, or view the entire press release or head into the weeds and get a copy of the entire report.

Feb 09, 2016

The future of lignin

From the University of Wisconsin's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences comes a story about lignin and its potential to provide value and not barriers. See what scientists at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center are up to in "The Future, Unzipped."



Feb 04, 2016

New Iowa State research sheds light on "marginal land"

New research from Iowa State University shows significant portions of Iowa farmland consistently produce yields that fall short of the cost of the inputs required to grow crops. It may make more sense to change how those unprofitable acres are used, according to ISU agronomists.

CenUSA has been interested in the concept of "marginal land" since the inception of our project as our vision calls for production of perennial grasses on land that is marginal for row crop production.

You can learn more about Dr. Brandes ' work here and in this short video.

Jan 28, 2016

Get learning: 17 Answers for Your Burning Questions About Biofuels ...

The new year is for learning. Maybe you will learn something new in this article from the Renewable Energy Network, "17 Answers for Your Burning Questions About Biofuels, Renewable Chemicals, Biomass and More." Read the full article here.

The article provides a definition for "marginal land," a topic dear to CenUSA Bioenergy. 

Jan 05, 2016

CenUSA collaborator Emily Heaton's work featured

CenUSA collaborator Emily Heaton's work with the University of Iowa has been prominently featured in a guest editorial, "Iowa is a place for climate leadership" in the Cedar Rapids Gazette (12/27/15).

Johnathan Hladik, the Rural Policy Director at the Center for Rural Affairs ( discusses the work being done at the University of Iowa to introduce miscanthus as a source of energy for the University's power plant. Emily Heaton, an assistant professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University and a member of CenUSA's Sustainable Feedstock Production Systems objective  has been heavily involved in the University of Iowa's project.

You can learn more here.

Jan 04, 2016

Switchgrass has a higher calling?

We are excited to learn that switchgrass has a higher calling even beyond our CenUSA vision. In fact, this hearty perennial may have a positive impact on the development of future crops.

Understanding how microbes promote prairie grasses to grow in nutrient-deficient, marginal soils could have an impact on developing forage and crops, according to researchers at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Oklahoma.

Read more in "Switchgrass key to future plant hardiness?". The AGRI-VIEW article is freely available here.

Dec 29, 2015

Biochar and Tomatoes: The new B in BLT

Is there some biochar in the BLT's future? 

According to this latest report on the ever-growing uses for biochar, the ubiquitous by-product of pyrolysis can "have considerable advantages for greenhouse tomato growers".

The report "Closing the Loop: Use of Biochar Produced from Tomato Crop Green waste as a Substrate for Soilless,  Hydroponic Tomato Production" is available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site:

Dec 28, 2015

Tallgrass Prairie Center releases final project report

The University of Northern Iowa's Tallgrass Prairie Center recently concluded the Prairie Power Project and has released the final project report. 

The project studied biomass production of four different native species seed mixes over three different soil types on non-prime agricultural land on a production scale over 5 years. Additionally, wildlife habitat and soil carbon sequestration were studied at the site, and in 2012 all of the material was harvested, processed, and test burned in the Cedar Falls Utilities power plant.

Information about the project and the final report are available on the project website at:

Dec 23, 2015

Iowa State's BioCentury research farm - A biomass gem

Learn what Iowa State University's BioCentury Research Farm can do for industrial clients and researchers in this recent article: ​BCRF's Biomass Preparation Services are in High Demand.

Since 2009, the Iowa State University BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF) has been providing biomass feedstock preparation services to industry clients and university researchers for their biofuels, bioproducts and animal feed projects. Read more

Dec 21, 2015

Robert Brown sees improved road ahead for biofuels

Have biofuels been overhyped? Yes, says CenUSA co-project director Robert Brown:

“Advanced biofuels were overhyped in 2007. They weren’t ready, but government policy and venture capitalists pushed for immediate commercialization instead of the kind of R&D that would have brought the technology to maturity.”

But in Brown's assessment, Brown sees a brighter future for biofuels. You can read the full story in  "The Fits and Starts of Biofuel" [12/17/15, Laboratory Equipment.

Dec 17, 2015

CenUSA enhanced switchgrass production tool now available

CenUSA Bioenergy has released a new switchgrass cost production tool for producers.*

To Grow or not to Grow: A Tool for Comparing Returns to Switchgrass for Bioenergy with Annual Crops and CRP

This tool is intended to give producers a guide to understanding best management practices for switchgrass production and also to compare the expected returns to switchgrass production with several alternative land uses. 

The tool is made up of two files, a Tool Instruction Guide (pdf) and the Tool Worksheet (Excel Worksheet).

The tool uses a worksheet format to allow producers to:

  • Calculate Production Estimates
  • Compare Per-Acre Net Returns

The tool is a collaborative effort by CenUSA's Keri JacobsRob Mitchell and Chad Hart.

Dec 16, 2015

From the US: "Energy crops and floodplain flows"

Can bioenergy crops add value to the landscape? This question needs to be answered as nations increase their biomass to energy portfolio and the risk of climate change induced flooding grows.

Attempting to provide some early answers the British government has released "Energy crops and floodplain flows." The report concludes:

"In certain locations, new energy crop plantations could potentially provide a flood risk management function, an economic return and additional environmental benefits."

You can read the summary or the full report.

Dec 04, 2015

Harvest month photo contest winner announced

CenUSA is pleased to announce that Aaron Shane, freshman in Ag and Bio Engineering at Iowa State University is the grand prize winner ($50) of our November 2015 Harvest Month Photo Contest. Aaron's photo, Dusk at Catherine's narrowly beat out runner-up Tennessee State University professor Jason de Koff's photo.

We want to thank everyone who participated in our contest for their support of the CenUSA vision.

Harvest Month Photo Contest Winner

Catherine's at Dusk - Aaron Shane

Harvest Month Photo Contest Runner Up

Harvet Eve - Jason de Koff




Dec 04, 2015

CenUSA releases "Guidelines to Growing Perennial Grasses"

CenUSA's Outreach and Extension Team, with the assistance of Co-Project Director Rob Mitchell, has released a new brochure "Guidelines to Growing Perennial Grasses for Biofuel and Bioproducts."

The three-page illustrated brochure provides succinct information to producers on:

  • Perennial Grass Options for the Midwest
  • Perennial Grass Benefits
  • Key Perennial Management Strategies

The brochure also provides tips on how to reliably establish and successfully manage warm-season grasses.

Dec 02, 2015

Perennial grasses & marginal land, a solid match?

From Kacey Birchmmier a  fourth-generation farm woman in central comes the article "Iowa Perennials Have Potential In Low-Productive Land." ( 11/30). Click here for the full article.

You can follow Kacey on Twitter - @KaceyBirchmier.

Nov 30, 2015

Report: What's happening in the biobased products industry

From the USDA comes a report to "An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry". This report is a follow-up to the 2014 preliminary study of the same topics.

The 2015 USDA report included several important findings and projections:

  • The bioproducts industry contributed $369 billion and directly or indirectly contributed 4 million jobs to the U.S. economy in 2013.
  • Each actual bioindustry job creates indirectly creates 1.64 additional job in the U.S. economy.
  • Certain sectors of the biobased products industry, such as biobased chemicals and “biorefineries”, create between 5 and nearly 20 total jobs for each job directly created.
  • The 2014 preliminary report noted that biobased chemicals could represent 45-50% of the specialty chemicals market by 2025, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
Nov 23, 2015

What do county ag agents think about perennial biomass?

It's always good to know what the important people think. That's why we asked county ag agents/extension professionals what they think about growingperennial grasses for biomass. See what they told us in this report from our project evaluator Sorrel Brown.

Nov 20, 2015

CenUSA and Extension's Jay Staker receives Impact Award

Iowa Energy Center honors Jay Staker

Jay Staker Earlier has always been a force within CenUSA's Extension and Outreach team so we are not surprised he is being honored by the Iowa Energy Center.

As part of the Energy Center's Iowa Energy Summit proceedings, Jay received an Impact Award along with professors Laura Jarboe (Chemical and Biological Engineering), Dr. Sri Sritharan (Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering). The awards are given to Energy Center grantees that exemplify the Center's mission to support economic development, environmental sustainability, and social well-being for Iowans.

The Iowa Energy Center had this to say about Jay:

"Staker, the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa board chair, is also the interim director for Iowa Space Grant Consortium. Staker received the 2015 Impact Award from the Iowa Energy Center for his passion and dedication in helping the next generation of Iowa scientists. He was a science teacher for over twenty years and has been with Iowa State Extension for over a decade. While conducting his life’s work, Staker always wondered if there were better ways to help children learn science. He strives to find better methods for teachers, ways to support educators, and most importantly, he tries to find ways for children to actually do science, not just hear about it."

To learn more about Jay's contributions to CenUSA via the C6 BioFarm game and app, click here.

Nov 18, 2015

CenUSA is hosting a Photo Contest!

CenUSA is hosting a Photo Contest!

Are you interested in sustainable bioenergy and bioproducts? Then join us in celebrating the 2015 Bio-Harvest. 
We are celebrating the 5th year of our $25 Million research project by  hosting a photo contest. A contest  theme has been created for each week of November 2015 relating to harvesting biomass. Each week in November  winning entires will be posted on our social media sites (Twitter and Facebook). We will begin to accept entries to our email,, starting on October 26th.
To learn more about the weekly themes and the contest rules go here
We will also celebrating the 5th year of our $25 Million research project by sharing harvest themed content throughout the month of November via our Twitter and Facebook accounts and our website.
Good luck from all of us at CenUSA!
Here is our week 1 winner Aaron Shane's photo:
Nov 09, 2015

Cellulosic ethanol as a regional biofuel

Our sister USDA-NIFA Bioenergy CAP Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (Washington state) has released a new video released by which explains how cellulosic ethanol is being used in the Pacific Northwest by the  sustainable hardwood bioproducts and biofuels industry. AHB believes that one day cellulosic biofuels from hardwood could be a cheap fuel produced from locally sourced poplar trees, a better alternative to the region that “importing” corn-based ethanol..

Nov 05, 2015

CenUSA 's Mellage: "Rethinking our Gas Tank"

CenUSA Bioenergy Advisory Board member Bryan Mellage has had his article "Rethinking our Gas Tank" republished in the August 2015 issue of Prairie Fire. The article provides a native Midwesterner's view of where we have been and can go with biofuels and bioenergy.

Sep 08, 2015

IBSS releases switchgrass production guidebook for US southeast

CenUSA Bioenergy's sister project IBSS has released a Guidebook for the Sustainable Production Practices of Switchgrass in the Southeastern U.S.

According to IBSS, the Guidebook which is freely available to download is: 
"[...[ designed to be a practical reference guide for stakeholders involved in the supply chain of utilizing herbaceous energy crops for advanced bioenergy production. The booklet is a guide for the establishment, sustainable management, and harvest of switchgrass utilized as a purpose grown energy crop for advanced bioenergy production."
Learn more about the Guidebook here.
Aug 12, 2015

CenUSA sister project, Advanced Hardwoods NW announces events



CenUSA sister project Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is hosting opportunities for interested parties to meet with members of their research team at their  "Poplar for Biofuels" demonstration sites in August September, and October 2015
Join extension professionals, policy makers, researchers, and environmental professionals, in learning about the latest biofuel and biochemical developments in the Pacific Northwest. Lunch
will be provided. 

Topics to be discussed include:

♦   Growing hybrid poplar as a short rotation woody energy crop
♦   Sustainable production and environmental impacts on soil, water, and wildlife
♦   Best areas to develop biofuel and biochemical industries
♦   Biomass production tour highlighting operational and research poplar plots

August 17 | 10:30am - 1:00pm | Pilchuck Demonstration Site | Stanwood, Washington
September 15 | 12:00pm - 3:00pm | 
Jefferson Demonstration Site | Jefferson, Oregon
October 21, 2015 | 12:00pm - 3:00pm | Clarksburg Demonstration Site | Clarksburg, California

Click here to register for the Pilchuck Tour
Click here to register for the Jefferson Tour
Click here to register for the Clarksburg Tour

Or contact Betsy Fradd at WUS Extension, 253-241-5043


Aug 11, 2015

Biomass crop planning app now available

Biomass Magazine reports that Genera Energy has launched a free biomass crop planning app. ( Genera Energy launches unique biomass crop planning app, (Aug. 6, 2015).

 The app, known as Biomass is available on both the Apple and Google Play app stores. According to Genera "the Biomass app was developed to serve as a practical, easy-to-use mobile crop planning and learning tool for biomass farmers and landowners."

Included in the app are: 

  • A biomass crop library that includes information, photos and range maps for the most popular American biomass crops.
  • A multi-function biomass calculator to help determine individual biomass needs.


Aug 07, 2015

Robert Brown: The "Godfatha" of pyrolysis

CenUSA and an award-winning commercial film. What could they possibly have in common? Turns out more than you might know.

Biofuels Digest has given Robert Brown, CenUSA co-project director and head of Iowa State University's Bioeconomy Institute a new title —the "Godfatha of Pyrolysis." 

The article, The Pyromaniax, Class of 2015: The Top 10 Pyrolysis projects in renewable fuels (Aug. 4) provides an excellent overview of the "pyro backstory" as well as the current state of pyrolysis commercialization both in the US and globally. Most important of all, it bestows that remarkable title on Dr. Brown!

Aug 05, 2015

Interested in mobile pyrolysis?

If you are a bioenergy fan and have not heard about the USDA-ARS FarmBio3 project you need to remedy that hole in your portfolio.      

FarmBio3 has a research summary. Exploring On-Farm Pyrolysis Processing of Biofuels available on the eXtension Farm Energy site that will give you the current low down on how "how on-farm processing could be part of a decentralized system of biorefineries located in villages, which are efficiently supplied with bio-oil from feedstocks grown and processed on surrounding farms."

FarmBio3 is part of the research effort from our colleagues at NewBioProject. Kwesi Boateng who is part of both CenUSA Bioenergy and the NewBioProject is pushing the envelope on where this exciting distributed technology can go.


Aug 03, 2015

Another biofeedstock with potential? Bio-ethanol from Poplar

CenUSA's fellow NIFA-AFRI CAP colleagues Advance Hardwood Biofuels Northwest tell their story in "Poplar-Based Bioethanol Production Awaits Spike In Price Of Crude" (7/1715) 

The article is an excellent review of the opportunities and pitfalls surrounding the use of poplar as a biofeedstock. You can read the article here

Jul 21, 2015

CenUSA's Mike Casler on improving switchgrass

CenUSA's Mike Casler is featured in an article looking at multiple traits to improve switchgrass.

Ethanol Producer Magazine (6/22/15) takes a look at how to move switchgrass from an "excellent biofuel production candidate" to a profitable source of biomass in "Researchers look at multiple traits to improve switchgrass." According to Dr. Casler: "After we achieve the yield and conversion goals, switchgrass could be a significant component of biomass crop grown east of the Rocky Mountains,.. We think we can achieve those goals by 2025."

Jul 17, 2015

Now available: CenUSA's "Midwest vision for sustainable fuel production"

The CenUSA leadership team has written an article summarizing CenUSA's progress towards its vision since 2011. The article, "Midwest vision for sustainable fuel production" published in the journal Biofuels is now available online.

Abstract: This article charts the progress of CenUSA Bioenergy, a USDA-NIFA-AFRI coordinated agricultural project focused on the North Central region of the US. CenUSA’s vision is to develop a regional system for producing fuels and other products from perennial grass crops grown on marginally productive land or land that is otherwise unsuitable for annual cropping. This article focuses on contributions CenUSA has made to nine primary systems needed to make this vision a reality: feedstock improvement; feedstock production on marginal land; feedstock logistics; modeling system performance; feedstock conversion into biofuels and other products; marketing; health and safety; education, and outreach. The final section, Future Perspectives, sets forth a roadmap of additional research, technology development and education required to realize commercialization.

Jul 17, 2015

USDA to Hold Biobased Stakeholder Forum & Webinar

USDA to Hold Stakeholder Forum on the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program

July 16, 2015, 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

To participate via the webinar, please go to:

WASHINGTON – The USDA Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program provides loan guarantees of up to $250 million to construct or retrofit biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals. Assistance is also available to eligible biobased facilities that convert biobased outputs from refineries into commercial-scale end-user products. USDA is holding a national stakeholder forum to discuss changes to the program under the 2014 Farm Bill.

A national stakeholder forum to announce the new Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003), expanding opportunities in renewable chemical and biobased product manufacturing, and application processing and program improvements.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno
USDA Energy Division program experts, and program partners and stakeholders

Jul 16, 2015

Renmatix wins 2015 Presidential Green Challenge

CenUSA Bioenergy commercialization partner Renmatix has received a 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award. The award recognizes individuals and firms who "for  innovative solutions that “reduce the use of energy, hazardous chemicals and water, while cutting manufacturing costs and sparking investments."

You can learn more about the award here.

About Renmatix
Renmatix is the leading technology licensor for the conversion of biomass into cellulosic sugar, an enabling feedstock for petroleum alternatives used in the global biochemical and biofuels markets. The company's proprietary Plantrose® process challenges conventional sugar economics by cheaply converting cellulosic biomass – from wood waste to agricultural residue – into useful, cost-effective sugars. Renmatix's supercritical hydrolysis technology deconstructs non-food biomass an order of magnitude faster than other processes and enhances its cost advantage by using no significant consumables.

Jul 14, 2015

Manure & Biochar: A new sustainability partnership

From our friends at eXtension Farm Energy, a new webinar: Agronomic and Environmental Uses of Biochar


July 17 at 1:30 p.m. (central); 2:30 (eastern); 12:30 (mountain); 11:30 am (pacific)

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Interest in the use of biochar has skyrocketed in the past year. The use of manure for generating biochar is being intensively explored as a way to address nutrient loading and renewable energy.

Join biochar experts Kurt Spokas, Jason Streubel and Mike McGolden for the first of a two-part webinar series in which they explore the history of biochar, how it is produced, and provide examples on how it is being used for agronomic and environmental purposes.

How Do I Participate?

On the day of the webinar, go to to download the speaker’s power point presentations and connect to the virtual meeting room. First-time viewers should also follow the steps at:

For More Information

Jul 13, 2015

Integrated Farms: A view of the bio-future?

According to Farm Futures Magazine, what's old may just be new. The article "Researchers integrate biofuels, food on farms" (July 9) describes the work of Argonne National Lab researchers in the a central Illinois watershed as they work with local producers to improve farm bottom line and positive environmental returns.

The researchers conclusions to date —"The key is a "multifunctional landscape" where resources are "allocated efficiently and crops are situated in their ideal soil and landscape position, ... For example, planting bioenergy crops like willows or switchgrass in rows where commodity crops are challenged - that provides an energy feedstock while also limiting fertilizer runoff into waterways." —sound a bit likes the farms of yore.

Learn more about the project “Multifunctional landscapes: Site characterization and field-scale design to incorporate biomass production into an agricultural system” from Farm Futures or from the project's latest journal article "Multifunctional landscapes: Site characterization and field-scale design to incorporate biomass production into an agricultural system". 


Jul 10, 2015

Biochar, water flow, sand and clay

A new study available without charge in the journal PLOS ONE explains what until know how been considered a hydrological mystery −biochar's "seemingly contradictory ability to make clay soils drain faster and sandy soils drain slower." (1).

Looking for the condensed version? Agrinews has published an excellent synopsis

(1) "Study: Biochar alters water flow to improve sand, clay"


Jul 08, 2015

Perennial crops and Midwest water usage

The Great Lakes Bioenergy Center has released a study looking at how 'second gen' perennial biofuel crops such as switchgrass and other perennial grasses use water and affect overall Midwestern rainfall balance. The researchers conclude that in a humid Midwestern climate with well-drained soils, perennial use water at roughly the same rate as corn.

More information is available from Biofuels Digest Researchers say perennial crops could use same water as corn in Upper Midwest (7/6/15) and from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Center -  Perennial biofuel crops use water at levels similar to corn.


Jul 07, 2015

Land available for biofuel surge

Grazing land has scope for biofuel surge 

The website SciDevNet reports on Bioenergy & Sustainability: Bridging the Gaps from the organization SCOPE (2015 Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment)

The takeaways:

  • At least 500 million hectares are available for growing biofuel crops
  • This is after considering rising food demand and growing urbanisation

  • Only up to 200 million hectares would be needed to slash fossil fuel use

 The article is available here or read the full report

Jul 02, 2015

CenUSA takes part in Energy Expo

Chad Martin, CenUSA Collaborator and Purdue University renewable energy extension specialist presented an Overview of Wind, Solar and Energy Efficiency at the 2015 Energy Expo at the Batesville Middle School. Martin discussed the potential for biomass energy, including switchgrass to help power the Midwest. To learn more  read Renewable Energy Resources in the Batesville Herald Tribune (June 26, 2015).

Jul 02, 2015

Biofuels: The European Story

Biofuels News for the (Euro) Masses

Biofuels Digest (6/29/15) tells the story of a new pubic focused website The website launched on June 29th is quite interactive and is intended to provide the interested public with summaries of "the latest science on key biofuels issues using fact-based, understandable information."

Click here to read the article in Biofuels Digest or go straight to the website.

Jun 29, 2015

USDA releases major report on US Biobased Products Industry

The USDA has released a new report of great interest to individuals nad businesses interested in growing a sustainable bioeconomy. The report, An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry A Report to the Congress of the United States of America was prepared for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred® program and the US Congress. Click here for the full text. More information is available here.

The report is a follow-up to the October 2014 report, Why Biobased? Opportunities in the Emerging Bioeconomy prepared for USDA.

The report  seeks to answer the six following important questions regarding the contributions of the biobased products industry in the US: 

(i) the quantity of biobased products sold; 

(ii) the value of the biobased products; 

(iii) the quantity of jobs created; 

(iv) the quantity of petroleum displaced; 

(v) other environmental benefits; and 

(vi) areas in which the use or manufacturing of biobased products could be more effectively used, including identifying any technical and economic obstacles and recommending how those obstacles can be

Jun 29, 2015

DOE: 6 new things happening with biofuels

The US Department of Energy has released a webpage that highlights "6 New things happening with biofuels" click here and learn more these exciting developments:

  1. Biofuels are getting a lot cheaper
  2. The hardest part is getting easier
  3. There's an algae surfboard
  4. Robots are going to improve the plants used to make fuel
  5. You can test your biofuels knowledge online
  6. You can view improvements yourself

Of course, at CenUSA we are not waiting for robot technology. We are sending out scientists today and every day to promote our vision of creating a Midwestern regional system for producing advanced transportation fuels and bioproducts derived from perennial grasses grown on land that is either unsuitable or marginal for row crop production. 

Jun 22, 2015

CenUSA's Robert Brown talks pyrolysis pilot plant

Things are heating up in the pyrolysis world (all puns intended)! CenUSA's co-project director and director of Iowa State University Bioeconomy Institute Robert Brown outlines the plans for a pilot plant that will use a fast pyrolysis process to convert biomass into bio-oil and biochar. Learn more about this exciting development in "PILOT PLANT SLATED FOR A FAST-PYROLYSIS PROCESS THAT CONVERTS BIOMASS INTO FUELS" from the current issue of Chemical Engineering magazine.

Jun 12, 2015

USDA relaunches BCAP

USDA Announces Restart of Biomass Crop Assistance Program for Renewable Energy

The USDA announced (June 1) that producers, ranchers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy will be able for incentives this summer as part of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. BCAP provides financial assistance to establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility. Learn more here.

Jun 02, 2015

CenUSA collaborators publish article on reducing Gulf of Mexico hypoxia

The Journal of Soil and Water Conservation has published an article by CenUSA project members Pam Porter, Rob Mitchell and Ken Moore. The article "Reducing hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico: Reimagining a more resilient agricultural landscape on the Mississippi River Watershed" is available free online here.

Jun 02, 2015

Where is the next generation of biofuels?

Harvest Public Media takes a look at the promise of the next generation of biofuels in "Next Generation Fuels Stuck In Neutral." The article which also contains an audio segment is available here

May 28, 2015

Aloterra uses miscanthus to produce compostable foodservice ware

Aloterra and World Centric have announced they are jointly developing and marketing a new line of certified compostable foodservice items made from Miscanthus plant fiber. The goal to replace foam and plastic items which currently dominate the food system. Learn more in this article from Biomass Magazine, Aloterra announces foodservice ware line made from miscanthus.

The really cool takeaway...the miscanthus will be grown on land that is marginal for food crop production.

May 06, 2015

Renmatix Accelerates Commercial Progress with...

​CenUSA commercial partner Renmatix accelerates commercial progress with acquisition of former Mascoma production unit

CenUSA commercial partner Renmatix announced today that it has acquired existing assets of the former Mascoma corporation’s 56,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Rome, NY. The new Feedstock Processing Facility (FPF) is dedicated to the first step in conversion to cellulosic sugar (from different types of biomass materials) utilizing proprietary Plantrose® process conditions.

The FPF opened officially on April 20, 2015, as the third U.S. location for Renmatix. This move creates a secure supply for Renmatix and its development partners at the IPC in Kennesaw, GA., where the second step in production of Plantro® sugars is performed.

Learn more here

May 05, 2015

ISU Engineering profs awarded (Bio) Patent...

Clearing the way for a more sustainable method of asphalt production, Chris Williams and Robert Brown (Iowa State University College of Engineering) and their research team have been awarded a paten

t on April 15, 2015) after developing a developed a method to create bioasphalt using cellulosic feedstock.

Though asphalt production typically uses crude petroleum as one of the variables, researchers at Iowa State joined forces to develop biorenewable materials. Learn more here.

Apr 24, 2015

CenUSA releases April BLADES Newsletter

The latest copy of our BLADES newsletter has hit the virtual streets. Click here to read our April issue and these informative stories:

  • Toward progress on nutrient management
  • Chevrolet and Ducks Unlimited pair up for grasslands
  • Switchgrass: Better bedding for broilers? 
  • CenUSA releases first-ever decision support tool for switchgrass
  • The California carbon offset market: directing the changing landscape
  • Managing carbon like coffee cups
Apr 13, 2015

"Turning prairies into gas: study finds U.S. biofuel production has ...

A new study by University of Wisonconsin Madison researchers  Tyler Lark, J. Meghan Salmon and Holly Gibbs. used high resolution satellite imagery to document  significant loss of carbon-storing natural lands as land is converted into carbon-emitting biofuel croplands. Read the article here

The full study is available in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Apr 03, 2015

Webinars for educators highlight NARA’s environmental sustainability research

At CenUSA we are part of a larger research effort, the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's bioenergy "Coordinated Agricultural Projects" (CAPs).* One of our fellow CAPs is Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). NARA has created a series of webinars specifically aimed at educators to acquaint the with environmental sustainability research. You can learn more about these webinars and access them here.

*Learn more about all six CAPs by clicking here

Apr 01, 2015

Five Harvesting Technologies are Making Biofuels More Competitive in the Marketplace

Check out this article from the Department of Energy, Five Harvesting Technologies are Making Biofuels More Competitive in the Marketplace, for the latest on cost-saving biofeedstock harvest technologies. The article is supplemented with infographics and includes information specific to harvesting switchgrass. 

To access the article, click here

Mar 27, 2015

CenUSA's Robert Brown has bioenergy parable published

The Hill has published, in its Congress Blog the parable "Managing Carbon Like Coffee Cups" by Robert Brown CenUSA Co-PI and Director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University. In the parable Dr. Brown discusses the important role that bioenergy can play in limiting carbon dioxide accumulation in the earth's athmosphere.

The article is accompanied by a cartoon drawn by Stefanie Dao, and Iowa State University graduate student in studio arts.

Mar 06, 2015

Explore the "The Cellulosic-RIN Revolution"

Biomass Magazine says "Expanded cellulosic fuel pathways have led to a surge of biogas-based fuel credits, and producers are taking advantage of a significant boost to project economics."

Learn more here.

Mar 03, 2015
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