Biomass crops featured in Farm Science Review plots

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LONDON, Ohio — From poplar and willow trees to sweet sorghum and switchgrass, visitors to Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review can learn more about the potential for producing bioenergy crops in Ohio.

Nearly two dozen biomass crops will be part of the demonstration plots exhibited at the east end of Friday Avenue of the Farm Science Review exhibitor grounds. Farm Science Review will be Sept. 21-23 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

Crops displayed

Visitors making their way to Gates A-E from the parking area can tour not only biomass crops, but also cover crops, antique corn, soybean trials, manure application plots, weed control demonstrations, corn hybrids, forage plots and popcorn trials.

Ohio State University Extension educators will be on hand to give details of the plots and answer any questions.

“Farmers are always interested in maximum production environments and the economics of creating those environments,” said Chuck Gamble, Farm Science Review manager. “What a way to greet farmers as they come to Farm Science Review. They can walk through that plot area and see the new things going on in ag research.”

Biomass crops that will be on display include willow tree and hybrid poplar as a wood product; corn for ethanol use; soybeans, canola, and sunflower for oil seed; and wheat, rye, barley, tall fescue, sorghum sudangrass, sweet sorghum, big blue stem, miscanthus and switchgrass as cellulosic products.

The summer bioenergy crops have already been planted and the winter crops will be planted in the next few weeks.

“There is growing interest from Ohio farmers on biomass crops. They want to know what each crop looks like, how to produce it, how to fertilize it, how to harvest it and how to market it,” said Harold Watters, an OSU Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources. “This demonstration plot is intended to provide that information.”

Concern

Watters said that the biggest question many growers have is whether the return on investment is worth the extra inputs. The same can be said for cover crops. Upwards of 15 cover crop varieties will be showcased at Farm Science Review to demonstrate to farmers how to produce the crops.

“There is a low rate of use in Ohio right now for cover crops,” said Watters. “Farmers understand the environmental benefits, but it all comes down to economics. They want to have that cover crop to pay them and it takes a few years to see a payback.”

Cover crops on display include the more common varieties such as oats, Austrian winter pea, clover, hairy vetch and oilseed radish, as well as some new ones never before grown in Ohio, including subterranean clover, crimson clover, Indian head lentil, sun hemp and fava bean.

“We are looking for that magic bullet, that right combination of cover crops that provides the most environmental benefits and gives growers the most bang for their buck,” said Watters.

Corn

The antique corn plots will also return to Farm Science Review, with over 25 varieties being showcased, including teosinte (the variety that started it all) to the best modern-day hybrids that genetics has to offer.

“With corn, as with soybeans, growers are looking for maximum production hybrids, ones that will yield 100 bushel-per-acre soybeans and 300 bushel-per-acre corn,” said Watters. “If they can achieve that, then that frees up land for other things such as cover crops and bioenergy crops.”

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