Monday, February 4, 2008

Switchgrass Impact

CBS out of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is reporting that NASA intends to spend $738,000 on a study of how planting large acreages of switchgrass might have an impact on the upper Midwest and Great Plains states. The study will be in collaboration with South Dakota State University and will look into questions posed as to how large areas of switchgrass in Northern Iowa, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Western Minnesota might have an impact as the ground is switched from corn/soybean rotations into switchgrass.

Although I think that this problem is relatively limited, since land fertile enough for corn/soybean rotations probably will not be wasted by converting the land into a switchgrass field that will yield less net profit to the farmer, I am pleased to see that the possible pros and cons of switchgrass are being aggressively looked into before undergoing a large shift in Midwest agriculture. The study will answer questions into the possibilities that large stands of switchgrass might increase the occurance of wildfires and could affect seasonal weather patterns. Even if they come to these conclusions, wouldn't restoring much of the upper-Midwest to perennial prairie grasses simply be a reversion to previous weather patterns? For this reason I will be interested in learning the results of this report.

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