Diversifying Midwestern agriculture with perennial forages: a review of the benefits and barriers to forages in Iowa, and a genetic study of biofuel potential for reed canarygrass
This thesis addresses first the socio-political, economic, and ecological consequences and causes of decreased forage production in Iowa, and then focuses on a breeding study related to the biofuel potential of reed canarygrass. In the first paper I review the agronomic, ecological, and economic benefits of forage incorporation into corn and soybeans rotations and then attempt to explain the socio-political reasons why forages are not grown on more Iowa farms. The second paper details an evaluation of reed canarygrass germplasm for biofuel traits. We evaluated the entire reed canarygrass germplasm collection available in the US for biomass and quality traits. We found significant variability for yield, height, and quality traits among germplasm of both US origin and from regions around the world. Higher yields from Central and Northern-European accessions as compared to Middle-Eastern and Eastern-European accessions suggest they would be the best candidates for inclusion in a direct breeding program.