Rapid Assessment of Woody Biomass Capabilities in Three Regions of the U.S. Midwest

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Schulte, Lisa
Hall, Richard
Grubh, Kumudan
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Tyndall, John
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Bioeconomy Institute
The Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University leads the nation and world in establishing the bioeconomy, where society obtains renewable fuel, energy, chemicals, and materials from agricultural sources. The institute seeks to advance the use of biorenewable resources for the production of fuels, energy, chemicals, and materials. The Institute will assure Iowa’s prominence in the revolution that is changing the way society obtains its essential sources of energy and carbon. This revolution will dramatically reduce our dependence on petroleum. Instead of fossil sources of carbon and energy, the bioeconomy will use biomass (including lignocellulose, starches, oils and proteins) as a renewable resource to sustain economic growth and prosperity. Agriculture will supply renewable energy and carbon to the bioeconomy while engineering will transform these resources into transportation fuels, commodity chemicals, and electric power. This transformation, however, must be done in a manner that meets our present needs without compromising those of future generations.
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With the development of the bioeconomy in Iowa and beyond, mounting interest is placed on the ability of biomass production systems to meet the growing demand. Woody biomass is especially compelling since trees (1) can be harvested throughout the year and kept growing until just prior to use, and are thus able to fill the gaps between harvest seasons for other types of agricultural biomass and solve the biomass storage problem, (2) offer very high energy output:input ratios, (3) stabilize soil, (4) efficiently cycle water and nutrients, (5) provide habitat for a diverse array of species, and (6) create a long-term, below-ground reservoir for carbon sequestration. Significant questions exist, however, regarding the ability of Midwestern landscapes to provide woody biomass. In an effort to answer these questions, we performed a rapid assessment of woody biomass production and supply capabilities in three regions of the U.S. Midwest—the Driftless Area, the Central Dissected Till Plain, and the area around Des Moines, IA. We used existing forest and timber inventories and conducted interviews with forest professionals to understand the accessibility of woody biomass from natural forests, the availability of and costs associated with woody biomass in the existing timber industry, and the potential for production from short-rotation woody crop plantations.


This final report is a white paper published by the Office of Biorenewable Programs, College of Agriculture and Life Science, Iowa State University, 2008, 38pp.i

Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2008