Can we enhance the climate mitigation potential of switchgrass as a Bioenergy Cropping System?

PSM professors land NIFA funding to explore pathways to greater carbon storage in switchgrass fields

Clockwise: Blackwood, Kravchenko, Guber, Lowry

While we know that storing carbon in the soil could be the super power for switchgrass, we also know that it takes it’s own sweet time to do it. In a new 4-year program funded by NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), Dr. Chris Blackwood and team including Andrey Guber and Alexandra Kravchenko (PSM), and David Lowry (Plant Science)  aim to identify the traits that indicate more soil-C storage in switchgrass roots, which holds promise for future breeding-for-soil-C, as well as examine the soil-C capacity in native prairie grasses, forbs, and legumes for potential inclusion in switchgrass stands. The project covers a transect that extends from  Michigan, through Missouri, and into Texas. MapGraphicChrisBlackwoodStory.jpg

“For both aims, the goal is to assess switchgrass biomass production, root and mycorrhizal characteristics, switchgrass-derived C in multiple soil fractions, changes in soil pore structure, and potential for long-term soil C protection,” Chris says. This work directly addresses the BNRE* program’s priority of sustainable feedstock production for bioenergy and bioproducts, specifically focusing on enhancing C sequestration.

“We plan to discern differences in soil pore structure and soil C among switchgrass genotypes, and in switchgrass vs. diverse prairie grasses. Controlled experiments will allow us to examine the mechanisms of plant neighbor effects,” Chris says. “And we can look into plant root architecture and inherent soil properties on formation of soil pore structure and other features that are beneficial for storage and protection of newly added C.”

*This work has broad impacts: The Bioenergy, Natural Resources and Environment (BNRE) Program Area is one of the farm bill priority areas reflected in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Foundational and Applied Science Request for Applications (RFA).

See the project summary here (link)


Did you find this article useful?