Omaha – The National Academy of Sciences has published research from a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) biology professor that may have significant implications for the future of biofuel production in Nebraska and across the United States.
A study conducted by UNO Assistant Professor Timothy Dickson, along with 16 other authors, has found that using alternative crops, like switchgrass and prairie grass, in producing biofuels can benefit the environment compared to more commonly used crops, like corn.
The study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, was published today in the most recent issue of “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”
In the study, Dickson and his colleagues found that many more environmentally beneficial species are able to thrive within switchgrass and prairie plantings, which are considered perennial crops due to their longer lifespan, than within shorter-lived corn plantings. The study also shows that these benefits increase as a greater proportion of the landscape is planted into perennial grasslands.
One such benefit is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Methane gas is significantly reduced by microbes found in the soil used for the production of perennial grasses compared to the soil used for the production of corn.
Currently, corn is still the main source of ethanol fuel in the United States; however, tall grass species are becoming more popular.
“Nebraska is on the forefront of biofuel production from these types of plants,” Dickson explained. “This study shows the potential environmental benefits of the work that is already being done right here in the state.”
Dickson joined lead author Ben Werling, Ph.D., from Michigan State University, as well as other scholars from Michigan State, University of Wisconsin, Bard College and Trinity Christian College on writing the paper.
UNO’s Department of Biology, located within UNO’s College of Arts and Sciences, is a member of UNO’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education initiative and oversees UNO’s newest research space, the Barn at Glacier Creek, located at Nebraska’s Glacier Creek Preserve.
“Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” is one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials, covering topics in biological, physical, and social sciences. The weekly journal is a publication of the National Academy of Sciences, a private, nonprofit society of scientific scholars that was established in 1863.
For more information or questions, please contact Charley Reed, UNO media relations coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 402.554.2129.
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